DISCOP Johannesburg 2018: Potential for growth despite strong prevailing headwinds in the broadcast sector
2 November 2018
Africa’s broadcast markets are facing tougher times: even the larger players are feeling the strain. Some of the recent optimism about growth in the African TV markets now has to be tempered by realism. Nevertheless, for any serious African broadcaster or producer DISCOP Johannesburg remains the place to go to meet buyers and sellers. Russell Southwood spoke to the event’s organizer Patrick Zuchowichi about what’s happening this year.
The challenges for the industry are many:”They are the same as anywhere else. Where’s the money to fund the content that’s so badly needed? We’re hearing from all quarters that broadcasters have less money and they either want to own or co-own the content. So how will this affect the level of production?”
However despite this challenge, there are many producers out there with interesting individual projects or project slates: 220 of them will be in attendance with real projects to sell:”You still have a nascent market and it’s difficult to see which way it will go. There’s so many moving parts like online content and the internet”.
“But the number of independent producers bringing interesting content to the table means there will be plenty of opportunities. The growth will be in local content and it will compete better than in the past with non-African content. Producers are now trying to sell to neighboring countries and there’s a more educated perception of Africa’s potential.”
There is competition now within the big regional companies to become number one distributor in Sub-Saharan Africa:”DStv has launched a distribution arm and it will be interesting to see how they play this.” Its VoD arm Showmax has also commissioned some original series to enable it to compete better with Netflix.
One of the challenges this year is that many of the major players are facing big challenges either right here in the African markets or in their international markets. Canal+ has seen huge growth in francophone Africa but is threatened by a decline in its home market.
DStv is facing pressure on its premium subscribers from Netflix, is slimming down its channel commitments and is being spun out of Naspers. Wananchi’s shareholders were recently reported as putting it up for sale:”Other players are not where they should be to challenge these two players (Canal+ and DStv).” Nevertheless there is still momentum in the market. For example, Known Associates is wanting to do a local adaption of international hit series Ugly Betty.
On top of these specific broadcast industry pressures, there are wider macro economic ones:”There’s been the impact of the low Rand and economic problems in Kenya and Nigeria.”
Again despite these prevailing headwinds, there remains a high level of international attention:”There’s way more international interest than we had in the past. China has become less and less open and this has revived interest in what Africa has to offer.” Johannesburg’s sister market that covers the Middle East will be held in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh and Zuchowichi sees parallels:”There’s similarities in terms of marketplaces and we’re in a good position to bridge relations between the two. There is content that can be watched in both regions.”
Key features of this year’s market include:
- A pavilion devoted to animation and comic book talents curated by the African Animation Network.
- Canada will be the guest country and the Canada Media Fund and South Africa’s NFVF will be encouraging producers to use the co-production agreement that is in place.
- The Ministry of Communications from Cote d’Ivoire will be coming and is also hoping to set up a co-production treaty with South Africa.
- The NextGen Programme will have a session on the adoption of formats:”More independent producers are wanting to do formats.” Armoza Formats is coming this year.
- There will be a Swahili Pavilion sponsored by local pay TV challenger Azam TV.
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