Pineapple TV is Africa’s first launched childrens’ TV channel – CEO Carl Raccah:”The more I researched the science behind childrens’ TV, the more I realized it would help Africa.”

21 August 2020

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An African-produced childrens’ TV channel has been one of those missing pieces when you look at continent’s content output. For years there have been none and now there are two. Russell Southwood spoke to Pineapple TV’s CEO Carl Raccah about its content offer and its investors.

Before my call this week, I last met Carl Raccah in Lagos at his home six years ago to talk about the channel. It has taken him the best part of a decade to get Pineapple TV off the ground:”The idea for Pineapple TV came when my first child was born. He was six months old – he’s now ten - and he was picking up things from watching CBeebies, Disney and Turner. There was nothing for Nigerian children. My own background was in music but the more I researched the science behind childrens’ TV, the more I realized it could help Africa.”

He speaks with passion about issues of Nigerian identity:”This is a nation of people who are so unhappy with Nigeria they end up aspiring to be American or British. You end up belonging nowhere. You don’t become American by buying Nike shoes. I realized the importance of culture and what kids’ shows are teaching their audiences.”

Towards the end of 2018 he found local investors and a Board willing to help him realize his vision. His co-directors are the Safieddine brothers (Heitham, Ali and Hadi) and Chair Francis Ogboro. The brothers run a successful family which includes transportation (HST - Hani Safieddine Transport) Plastics (Black Horse Plastics & SAF Furniture) Fumigation and Hygiene (Boecker LTD) among other things. Ogboro is another successful local businessman and also Chair of local airline, Dana Air.

With the help of Ogboro and the Ministry of Information and Culture, he was able to get the channel on to StarTimes platform in Lagos.:”We have plans to go nationwide and are in discussions about Pan-African coverage.”

What started as a kids’ channel is now as much a family channel:”This came about from the data we’re getting. Mum and Dad are watching the channel with their kids and learning as well.”

It now runs everything from pre-school content to programmes for parents:”We’re bringing back wrestling for Dad. There is also primary school football from a league we’ve helped create and there is also storytelling.” It’s a semi-professional, 5 a side league for both public and private schools:”There will be a healthy competition between schools which instills pride. The winners will get a prize like seeing Manchester United in England and football boots. We’re making it aspirational and inspirational.”

“Wrestling used to be huge here and we’re aligning with the Nigerian Wrestling Federation to do it again. We’ll use African names and build them up and it will draw the family together.”

Straight after the wrestling, there’s a careers show called You Want To Be a What? and there also a series called Inspire, which features Africans who’ve done inspiring things. The careers show features a wide range of professions and Raccah hopes it will broaden parents minds beyond the traditional accountant, doctor or lawyer options. It features successful career women as another mind-widening approach and will also feature a male nurse.

The storytelling approach – that programme is called Tamarind Tales - exemplifies the values of the channel:”We have celebrities reading and you will have a Yoruba or Ibo person reading a Northern story. All stories will be told in the 4 main languages and dialects with sub-titles.”

95% of the content is from within the continent and is either produced in-house or licensed from other African content producers. In addition, it is also licensing its content: one of its shows is appearing on Arewa24, which has dubbed it into Hausa.

In addition, there’s a programme that tells children about who Nigeria’s Presidents were and a short feature called In Your Garden that helps children identify the animals and insects right under their noses.

Initial research from Star Times indicates that it’s getting 500-800,000 viewers a day in Lagos. It has not yet been promoted but is already in the Top 30 out of the 90 channels on the platform:”We’re reaching out to brands but didn’t want to do a heavy promotion until we go nationwide. In just over a year, we’ll be fully broadcasting everywhere.”

See: https://www.pineappletv.com/

Meanwhile on the other side of the continent, someone I spoke to three years ago called Jesse Soleil launched a childrens channel called Akili Kids! in March 2020, another first in Kenya.

As he said at the time: ''We planned on launching on 31 March 2020, but with schools closed and children and parents at home we knew we had to hit that date. We had to accelerate in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, so that families across the country could have access to free, inspiring and educative content,'' he said.

"The power of entertainment cannot be underestimated. Akili Kids! has the potential to greatly enhance childhood experiences, and thus later life outcomes, for millions of young Kenyans. We are so proud of Jeff, Jesse and the team for their hard work getting on air," says Khilen Nathwani, Founder of The Kays Foundation.

Akili Kids! is a free-to-air channel, available on StarTimes/PANG Channel 105, and is free-to-view on digital TVs and some OTT set-top boxes, as well as streaming live via the website at https://akilikids.co.ke

(in Kenya only).

"Our target is for 40% of our programming to be locally produced over the next three years. We already have some terrific local programmes in development," says CEO and co-founder Jeff Schon.

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