Canal+ Group continues to make moves that will see it become the dominant Pay-TV player across all Sub-Saharan Africa

12 August 2022

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Vivendi-owned pay TV operator Canal+ is increasingly flexing its commercial muscle across the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. As an independent, South Africa’s Multichoice finds itself much less powerful than it once was. Russell Southwood looks at what Canal+ is up to.

In early July Groupe Canal+ SA increased its stake in Multichoice to 20.12% after a series of small incremental increases from 15% to the current position. MultiChoice said it has filed the required notice with the Takeover Regulation Panel as required in terms of section 122(3)(a) of South Africa’s Companies Act. Canal+ had previously offered a multi-million dollar takeover bid but this was rejected by Multichoice. It’s current strategy seems to be to test the limits by gradually building up a position.

At the time, Multichoice issued a bland statement claiming it would act in the best interests of all shareholders: “MultiChoice remains committed to acting in the best interest of all shareholders and to create sustainable long-term shareholder value. While the Group regularly engages investors with its strategic partners and maintains an open dialogue with the investment community, its policy is not to comment on its individual shareholders nor on its interactions with them.”

There are clearly strategic synergies for the two companies that can be taken advantage of well short of merger. Canal+ recently signed co-production deal with Multichoice for an 8 episode action drama series called Spinners., about a South African custom of car spinning, which has now grown into a sport.

Allan Sperling, MultiChoice Group’s Executive Head of Physical Production said: ““We are in partnership with Canal+, who are taking the French rights, and the rest of the world will be up for sales; and this is where we’re looking to recoup, and the producer also gets proceeds from that. So it is also possible for Afrikaans shows to become co-productions.”

Meanwhile Canal+ announced the majority acquisition of Rwandan production company ZACU Entertainment. One of the attractions of the deal is that the company produces 500 hours of new films and TV series a year and has a catalogue of 700 hours all in Kinyarwanda. Previous Canal+ purchased of African production companies have included Plan A in Cote d’Ivoire and Rok Studios in Nigeria.

Wilson Misago, the founder of Zacu Entertainment, told Rwanda’s New Times in an interview: “I will remain as the CEO of the company and the team behind Zacu’s content won’t change. I still believe in my team that we have been working with because with them, so much has been achieved.” Via Canal+, a special channel dedicated to only local films produced in Kinyarwanda, is soon launching and starting operations in Rwanda.

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In Brief

South Africa: The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and free-to-air broadcaster, e.TV have accused Sentech of excessive pricing and anticompetitive behaviour. The broadcasters have submitted a formal complaint to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) – the country’s industry regulator – to call for urgent regulatory interventions in the signal distribution market to deal with alleged monopolistic abuses by Sentech. The submissions form part of a market inquiry by ICASA into the signal distribution services market in South Africa. Sentech, on the other hand, wants the regulator’s discussion document withdrawn. In its submission, E.tv parent eMedia Investments said that it is “deeply concerned at the fact that the issues relating to significant market power concerning signal distribution services have been ignored for decades”.

Zimbabwe: In Zimbabwe, the Censorship and Entertainment Control Unit has banned the documentary film ‘President’, saying it “has the potential to incite violence” as the country heads for the 2023 presidential elections. Produced by Danish filmmaker Camilla Nielsson, the award-winning documentary follows opposition leader Nelson Chamisa on the campaign trail as he challenges the governing Zanu-PF in the 2018 presidential elections.

Netflix has announced that season two of Young Famous & African will soon be available on the streaming platform, and fans should prepare themselves for a more entertaining season full of drama and many surprises.

Nigeria: A company in Nigeria, Metro Digital Limited, has applauded the government and its Ministry of Information and Culture for supposedly “ending the monopoly of cable television rights by major pay television companies in Nigeria”. According to Dr Ifeanyi Nwafor, Managing Director of Metro Digital, the government’s intervention will create jobs for thousands of people in Nigeria, tackle the challenge of economic inequality and improve life quality: “We believe that with the end of monopoly, the industry will grow exponentially with lots of innovations. Thus, we are thrilled, considering that the broadcasting market was foreclosed in the past, as premium content was bought exclusively…News channels like CNN, premium sporting events such as the English Premier League, Champions League were acquired exclusively to the exclusion of other operators in the industry,” he added. Nwafor noted that the industry’s monopoly led to the closure of television entities such as Trend TV, Daar Sat, Consat, and FSTV, among others, as they could not cope with unhealthy business practices in the sector.

Ghana: A sports and digital entertainment company, BetKing, has announced its entry into the Ghanaian market with a stakeholder event. Held at the MultiChoice Ghana Limited facilities, the event was attended by the Head Policy for the Sports Ministry, Mohammed Sannie Adams; Gaming Commission of Ghana, Peter Mireku; the media, and a host of top dignitaries and key stakeholders across the sports industry. According to BetKing, this expansion will provide Ghanaians with a credible and reliable sports betting platform and intensify local efforts designed to positively impact lives within the communities they operate and beyond. Managing Director of Kingmakers, Gossy Ukanwoke, explained in his opening remarks that BetKing’s entry into the Ghanaian market will continue to focus on its strategic intent to be a leader in sports and digital entertainment in Africa.

South Africa: U.S. streaming service BET+ has acquired streaming rights to South African-produced sci-fi thriller “Pulse.” Produced by Showmax, Media Musketeers, Forlan Film and The Mediapro Studio, the series tells the story of an electromagnetic pulse that disables a secure building and disrupts the bio-electric signals in everyone’s minds, trapping a group of video game designers and turning each floor into a psychotic battlefield. The series questions whether the modern human race can survive without the technology that defines our way of life. Pulse was written and directed by Hilton Treves, Oscar and BAFTA-winning VFX team behind films like “Fargo”, “Harry Potter,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” and “Skyfall.”

Ghana: Director-General (DG) of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), Professor Amin Alhassan, is advocating for a review of Ghana’s Media Policy and Regulatory System. The Director General believes Ghana’s Media Policy and Regulatory System which was put together 30 years ago needs an immediate review to meet current trends.

Nigeria: The IPI global network condemns the arbitrary fines imposed on Nigerian broadcasters Trust TV, Multichoice Nigeria Limited, TelCom Satellite Limited, and NTA-Startimes Limited after the stations aired documentaries by BBC Africa Eye on insecurity in Nigeria. The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) fined the outlets 5 million naira (11,500 euro) each for “glorifying terrorism” after a government minister harshly criticized the reporting. IPI calls on the authorities to withdraw the fines, ensure due process, and allow independent journalism. The fines were announced on Wednesday after Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, stated on July 28 that Trust TV and BBC would face consequences for “glorifying terrorism and banditry” in their reporting. Trust TV aired a BBC Africa Eye documentary called “Nigeria’s banditry: The Inside Story” back in March.

Kenya: Showmax has released yet another Kenyan series, “Country 49”. Premiering on 25 August 2022, the thriller series follows the political intrigues of the fictional Bwatele County, Kenya’s 49th county and the nation’s breadbasket. Despite the county’s wealth, its citizens struggle to make a living, influenced by a high cost of living and scarce resources. Country 49 opens with the new governor of Bwatele County, Nerimah Mkung, visiting the marginalized Sector 4 with a message of hope. But things take a wildly unexpected turn when the governor is taken captive by an unknown group who’ve had enough of plundering their resources. The series stars Wakio Mzenge, Nyokabi Macharia, Ainea Ojiambo, Maqbul Mohammed, Martin Githinji, Peter Kawa, Benson Ojuwa, Nick Kwach, Emmanuel Mugo, Angela Mwandanda as well as Sam Psenjen. Kibanda Pictures are producing the series alongside Supa Modo and Crime and Justice director Likarion Wainaina. Also included are producer Millicent Ogutu and Morning After and Country Queen co-director Brian Munene and actor-producer Bruce Makau.