TV mart back by popular demand

CAPE TOWN Just six months after Natpe’s first Discop Africa TV mart proved such a success, Discop Africa 2 will take place Sept. 16-18 at Kenya’s Hilton Nairobi Hotel.

The inaugural edition of the content production, distribution and funding event lured 457 participants to Dakar, Senegal — “the first time that so many African TV stations and pay TV platforms were available under one roof,” says Discop general manager Patrick Jucaud. “And 95% of these TV operators had never attended an audiovisual content market before.”

Jucaud says most content suppliers were expecting only to establish contact with African TV operators, but there were so many deals that Discop Africa was back by popular demand. Some 378 execs have signed up for the Nairobi edition.

“African TV stations and pay TV stations told us that to wait a full year was too long,” he adds. “With record audiences expected for next year’s FIFA soccer World Cup 2010 in South Africa, they need programming, as advertisers will be spending more money on TV in 2010 than ever before in Africa.”

The Dakar edition attracted more than 170 buyers from nearly 100 companies in 33 of the 53 African countries. Buyers were predominantly looking for series (71%), telepics (59%), documentaries (58%), telenovelas (55%), sporting events and educational content (both 53%), gameshows and features (both 49%) and animation (45%).

“With the World Cup approaching fast, we expect a lot of sports content licensing deals to take place in Nairobi, as well as more sales of African-made content, as we have more African producers and distributors attending,” Jucaud says.

Of the roughly 100 content suppliers that attended the first edition, 30% were from Africa.

MGM Networks, Sony Pictures Television and MTV Networks are just some of the international players who will be in Nairobi.

South Africa-based pan-continental pay TV platform M-Net will also be present, enlarging and promoting its 541-title African Film Library, touted as the world’s largest contempo African movie collection. Its pics include Haile Gerima’s “Teza,” winner of the special jury prize at Venice last year, and Ousmane Sembene’s “Moolaade,” which won best film in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2004. The library will soon be available via M-Net’s African Film Classic video-on-demand site.

Mike Dearham, head of M-Net sales and library acquisitions, was positive about his experience at the first Discop Africa.

“Overall, it was well organized and a useful networking forum. I acquired a few feature films and a couple of docs,” he says.

“There is a demand for African content in the African Diaspora, which has been opened up by niche TV stations and increased audience fragmentation. There is money to be made selling African content internationally. It’s modest returns, but regular.”

Jucaud says the next Discop expects many more advertisers and advertising agencies.

“This is more important than in other regions, as the advertisers are very much involved in the decision-making process to acquire content.”

Africa is a relatively untapped market. According to Discop, Africa is home to just under 1 billion people, 33% of whom are between ages 10 and 24. Some 5.2% have access to the Internet, 27% are mobile subscribers and there is one TV to every 10 people.

The market is on the rise. The average gross domestic product across all 53 African countries is growing by 5%, with Angola at 16.7% and Equatorial Guinea at 12.4%. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of Internet users shot up by 1,100%, while mobile use increased by 48% annually between 2003 and 2008.

“All indicators show that the African TV and advertising sectors are growing,” Jucaud says. “With the difficulties encountered by most audiovisual content suppliers in more developed markets, the importance of Africa, as a clearly untapped market, has grown in the last few months.”

Jucaud lists Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Senegal as “key countries where TV stations have more purchasing power.”

Africa has its challenges, not least its thousands of ethnic groups and estimated 2,000 languages. English is spoken in 22 countries, French in 21, Arabic in 12 and Portuguese in five.

This makes local content even more vital.

“With the first Discop Africa, we realized how important African-made television is to African TV stations,” Jucaud says. “Given the increasing global and regional interest in African content, we have launched ‘Made in Africa,’ a continuous training and informative platform to improve production and distribution skills in Africa.”

Meanwhile, the organizers will decide whether to revert to annual editions of Discop Africa after the third event, which runs Feb. 24-26 in Dakar.

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