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Discop Highlights China’s Growing Presence in Africa

China’s robust presence in Africa was highlighted Nov. 4 with a Discop program that showcased the country’s growing commitment to the continent — and its TV screens.

Hosted by the state-owned China Intl. Television Corp., China Showcase offered a chance for reps of Chinese and African media to celebrate the growing ties between the Asian nation and the continent.

The afternoon’s highlight was the signing of six cooperation agreements between 11 private and parastatal enterprises from Africa and China, promising to strengthen a bond that will “open up relationships and create a bridge between Africa and the rest of the world,” said Monde Twala, president of South African private network e.tv.

The agreements come just weeks before South Africa plays host to the second summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which will bring together government officials and heads of state from Africa and China to discuss how to deepen cooperation on trade and investment between the two partners.

Perhaps the most active player on the continent has been the StarTimes Media Group, which launched its African arm, Star Africa Media in 2007, and now has a presence in 28 African countries.

The company’s pay-TV platform has shaken up a marketplace long dominated by South Africa’s MultiChoice. While MultiChoice still has nearly 8 million subscribers across the continent, StarTimes is quickly catching up, pricing bouquets for as low as $3 a month to grow its audience base to 4.5 million subscribers.

StarTimes VP Michael Dearham credits the company’s success to its understanding of the African marketplace.

“It’s value for money,” he said. “We are not a Rolls Royce operation. We don’t profess to be a premier package, [like] DStv.”

Local content has been a key part of its strategy, with nearly half of its 400-plus channels dedicated to African content, including a deal inked with VOD service iRokotv to bring its extensive catalog of Nigerian movies to two linear channels.

A StarTimes production hub in Nairobi is slated to open next year.

The company has also led the charge in the continent’s digital migration, assisting with successful DTT transitions in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, and forging a partnership with Nigerian pubcaster NTA to help with the rollout in Africa’s most populous nation.

It’s even invested in solar panels to help bring digital TV to rural areas.

“Our vision … is flavored by leveling of the playing field,” Dearham said. “To allow every African family access to digital entertainment [and] affordable entertainment.”

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