Senior VP ViacomCBS Networks – Africa, Monde Twala on its Pan-African Culture Squad, new local productions and how streaming products in Africa “in the pipeline”

9 April 2021

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Music culture is one of the fastest moving sectors in Sub-Saharan African and broadcasters need to keep their finger on the pulse. Russell Southwood talks to Monde Twala, Senior Vice President and GM, ViacomCBS Networks, Africa about staying different in a competitive space and what other things are planned for the coming year.

The Pan African-Culture Squad is ViacomCBS’s way of staying close to Africa’s musical talent and using it to curate as MTV Base VJs. Back in February, Ehiz, Folu Storms and Nenny B all joined as new MTV Base VJs in South Africa .

ViacomCBS Networks Africa has over the years captured the hearts and minds of viewers with their leading youth, entertainment and lifestyle brands MTV, MTV Base and BET Africa as well as the VJs who viewers have come to know and love. VJs are the original influencers and through their popular MTV Base VJ search the network has opened up the industry and introduced us to the likes of Ehiz Okoeguale, Folu Storms, Nenny B, Sammy Walsh, Nomuzi Mabena, Sizwe Dhlomo, Kim Jayde, Fikile 'Fiks' Moeti, Tshego Koke and Ntandose to name a few.

These individuals have shaped popular culture, rubbed shoulders with global superstars and represented Africa on international stages via one touchpoint, ViacomCBS Networks Africa. The brand will be deepening this impact by reintroducing fan favorites and fresh faces with the launch of the Culture Squad.

The Culture Squad is a team of visionaries, creatives and trendsetters who are pushing the culture forward across the network’s youth brands MTV, MTV Base and BET Africa. This platform will give African talents a bigger stage to showcase their distinct originality, highlighting how they are influencing cultural shifts, setting trends and leading the conversation through a VJ centred content portfolio. VJs across the network’s Pan African platforms will be at the forefront of the culture hosting iconic moments, meeting industry movers at home and abroad, entertaining viewers across several shows and getting involved in meaningful causes that are close to their hearts.

According to Twala:”It’s about how we collaborate with talent and how we connect with the culture of the day, understanding new trends and our audiences.” MTVBase now includes what Twala describes as “music relevant content” including reality shows from Nigeria that are being launched on the channel. It has also commissioned a reality show from musician and dancer, Moonchild Sanelly, looking at her off-stage life:”We want to entertain and educate an African audience.”

”We want to change the African narrative and reposition it in the global space.” BET Africa has commissioned its first original drama series (Isono) from Clive Morris Productions and created by Mahlogonolo Manchester Mahapa. Isono is about a dysfunctional family with a powerful and evil matriarch:”We are talking about a second season of a daily soap on the channel.”

As part of its plans to make local formats for global audiences, Isono has just launched on BET France. It is also doing local animation for Nickelodeon:”We want to see people of color on the channel.” It has partnered with the KZN Film Commission to do Seven Deadly Sins:”Its local storytelling that travels.”

“The market is clattered and very competitive and we have to differentiate ourselves.” ViacomCBS Networks Africa claims to offer the most comprehensive international broadcast portfolio on the African continent, reaching more than 100 million viewers across 48 territories in Africa. ViacomCBS Networks Africa currently comprises 10 separate TV channels and 5 consumer websites, as well as multiple mobile and social media sites. The company’s African business interests include content production and distribution; spot sales, 360-degree sponsorships, events, mobile, digital and consumer products:”It’s time for us to think Pan-Africa. The South African market is too niche and internal facing.”

In the USA, ViacomCBS have launched several streaming channels, including Paramount+ and Pluto TV:”Streaming has grown during Covid-19 and these two chgannelswill be relevant. Africa is in the pipeline to roll out streaming channels and we’re starting to introduce them through partnerships with MNOs, affiliate Pay TV partners and even Free-To-Air partnerships. The media landscape is changing rapidly and content has to live across different platforms because that is what the audience is doing. However, the linear business is strong and growing and we have plenty of entertainment channels and brands that we've not yet launched.” He drops the news that Amazon is planning to launch locally.

And the impact of Covid-19?:”From a creative perspective, how do I put it, it’s been a blessing in disguise. It’s inspired is to think differently and do things differently. For example, we came up with virtual executions of our big award shows. We did a virtual Africa Day where we bought in content in Partnership with YouTube. We also did a Nelson Mandela Let’s Read Day, teaching emerging audiences to read and the power of reading.”

He’s bullish about what will happen post-Covid-19:”I’m pretty much optimistic. There’s a few projects we’re working on that give me the confidence that the market is re-opening, people who are bullish about fresh ideas and innovations. Things are opening up slowly.”

In Brief

Old Mutual’s reality talent search show Amazing Voices is back for a second season on 11 April. The show will be available for 13 weeks until 5 July and includes participants from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Season 2 was rolled out in October with a call for entries where 546 singers sent in their recorded videos. Those shortlisted attended closed auditions in front of celebrity jurors in their home countries.

Due to a recent surge in spiritualists and money doubler content on national television, the National Media Commission (NMC) has been called to regulate this content type. The censorship call came about when a 10-year-old boy was murdered at Kasoa in the central region by two teenage boys. The murder was said to be a result of a money ritual. Upon apprehension, the two suspects, aged 16 and 18, confessed to murdering their young neighbour on the instructions they received from a spiritualist they discovered on national television. The Ghana Police Service later detained the spiritualist who allegedly directed the two teenagers to commit the murder of their colleague for money rituals.

SuperSport, part of the Multichoice Group, has confirmed that it has secured a live broadcasting deal for all 64 matches of the 2022 FIFA Soccer World Cup, which will be held in Qatar.

MTN Uganda has announced the launching 'Kibanda Xpress', a Video-On-Demand (VOD) channel aimed at boosting Uganda's film industry by offering a premium mix of local Ugandan movies. Kibanda Xpress will stream local and international radio and TV content on the mobile application, YoTV channels. 150 Ugandan movies are said to be available for live streaming. As an addition, premieres of new local entertainment content will be available to the channel for customers' convenience and affordability.

The 77 Percent - DW's platform for Africa's youth has launched a new Instagram channel @dw_the77percent which has been received with much enthusiasm. The channel reflects Africa's youth scene and discusses issues relevant to Africa's young population with features such as "GirlZ Off Mute," in which young up-and-coming reporters between the ages of 13 and 17 encourage other girls to pursue their passions and talents, or "77 Stories," where we get up close and personal with strong protagonists.  

SPI/FilmBox have inked several deals with major operators across Africa. The most recent is with the digital satellite TV provider ZAP for Gametoon, 360 TuneBox, FashionBox, FightBox, FilmBox Arthouse and Fast&FunBox in Angola and Mozambique.

TikTok, a video-sharing social networking service used to make various short-form videos, has recently announced a Pan-African licensing agreement that will see songwriters, composers, and music publishers paid royalties when their music is used on the platform. According to reports, the popular app that has racked more than two billion global downloads since its 2016 release, outpacing Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, will cover 58 territories across the continent under the new licensing agreement. The Composers Authors and Publishers Association (CAPASSO) and Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) reached a licencing deal with TikTok following Jerusalem's success and the company's ever-expanding international reach. Through this agreement, registered musicians will receive royalties via CAPASSO.