Surviving and winning as a production company in a small market – Botswana’s Mohau Mannathoko, Industry Media on the impact of DTT channels and Government tenders

5 June 2019

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Everybody knows about Africa’s high-profile production markets like Nigeria and South Africa but how does a production company thrive in a small market like Botswana? Russell Southwood spoke to Mohau Mannathoko, Managing Director, Industry Media about getting work and wanting to make high-quality TV.

Industry Media was launched in 2014 and has survived for five years in one of Africa’s smallest broadcast markets. There are only two Free-To-Air TV channels, the Government’s Botswana TV (BTV) and South African owned eTV, alongside Multichoice as the Pay TV operator.

Mannathko launched the company because he wanted to produce better quality content:”We don’t have many production companies producing high-end TV content and we wanted to produce radio and TV content”.

He taught himself production software and started off by doing radio ads and talk shows:”There two high-end supermarkets in Botswana and we got a six month contract from one of them. That was before we decided to head into TV completely”.

He was part of the technical team that show the much acclaimed local TV series Colours that was commissioned by BTV in 2016 and ran for 26 episodes:” It was TV drama about a young man caught between doing his best at work and being a breadwinner at home”. It remains popular and when I spoke to him was still showing showing on Multichoice locally.

He is currently producing a business talk show for Botswana TV called Pussa BW, which gives local businesses a platform to promote themselves.

Unusually Botswana chose the Japanese standard ISDB-T for its digital switchover and has created a platform with 8 channels that include TV drama, Kwese Sports, BTV, a new BTV Sports Channel, Now TV and others. There are hopes that the number of channels will expand after the first phase of consolidation:” The platform will offer local content producers a range of opportunities. Channels are commissioning from production companies. There will be an increase in other programmes because of the new DTT channels but there are not specific TV production budgets.” Industry Media partnered with platform operator Sarona TV to create ads to encourage people to buy the set-top boxes.

The production sector in Botswana is small with only 5 companies, of which only 2 are constantly producing content. The rest survive on Government production contracts but there are only 1-2 tenders a year, making small companies very reliant on winning these tenders:” The TV production sector is really at the infant stage and is not recognized by the Government”.

There is no flow of independent productions from anywhere:”There’s no commissioning of programme. Elsewhere, when you have a concept you take it to the broadcaster and if it likes it, then you agree a short pilot. Here people have to create the whole season. The quality is not as good as it should be.”

Mannothoko would like to produce content that could be distributed internationally and has spent time at festivals and at industry buyers and sellers event DISCOP.


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