As content producers and broadcasters try to keep pace with a rapidly changing TV landscape across Africa, industry stakeholders will gather Oct. 31 in South Africa for the continent’s lone event dedicated exclusively to the production and distribution of TV content.

For three days, Discop Africa’s seventh edition will bring together more than 1,000 delegates from 85 countries, representing some of the world’s biggest producers, broadcasters and distributors.

The highlights will be a film and TV market, a co-production forum, a format pitching competition, and a wide-ranging program of panels and discussions designed to help African industryites to connect with key players in both regional and international markets.

“For the last few years we’ve seen great changes taking place across Africa in terms of television content distribution,” says Patrick Zuchowicki, general manager of business event organizer Basic Lead, which is hosting Discop. “What we’ve seen is not only an influx of foreign content being brought into Africa, but … a very dynamic production community that has been experiencing difficulties doing business across borders inside Africa.”

The goal of the annual event, he says, is to foster “regional, cross-border business within Africa.”

The importance of achieving that goal has increased in recent years, as the emergence of new distribution channels — such as mobile devices and a host of new pay TV operators — have given more African viewers access to more content than ever before. The continent’s upcoming digital migration will only increase the platforms and opportunities for stakeholders.

“The paths on which African content travels within the continent … are being expanded enormously,” says Hannelie Bekker, managing director of Kenya’s Wananchi Programming, which includes the pay TV platform Zuku. “Television consumers are getting real choice. And it’s a massive market, and it’s growing, because there’s amazing economic growth and social mobility.”

That rapid growth has mostly outpaced the ability of local industries to keep up. Across Africa, formal financing and legal frameworks still struggle to provide adequate support for the creation and distribution of content.

Mike Dearham, senior VP of Cote Ouest, one of Africa’s leading distribs, says that’s beginning to change, with such countries as South Africa, Morocco, Kenya and Nigeria taking the lead to shore up wobbly production and distribution infrastructures.

The support, he says, will come in the form of formal investment mechanisms to lock in financing; more sophisticated research into audience viewing habits; and content creation strategies, such as co-production agreements and government funding.

“Once you have these anchor countries … doing these things,” says Dearham, “you’ll see … a positive impact on the neighboring countries and regions.”

By bringing together Africa’s largest contingent of content suppliers, Discop plays a vital role. For the many producers who often lack the means to get their content to pan-African and global markets, it affords opportunities to ink co-production and distribution deals with foreign partners. For industry players used to being sidelined at major international markets like Mipcom, it also offers them the rare chance to take center stage.

“Africa is not on the margins in Discop,” says Wananchi’s Bekker. “Africa is where it’s at.”

But the market’s growing success, says Dearham, shouldn’t divert attention from the challenges facing players, as financing remains scarce and piracy continues to plague rightsholders.

Events like Discop, says Dearham, “are not the end in itself. They are a means to a bigger end.”


DAY 1 (Oct. 31)
9-10 a.m. Keynote: The Benefits of Digital Migration
10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Case Studies + Panel Discussion: Developing, Co-producing and Exporting Francophone Film and Television Projects
10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Informative Program: Developing a Licensing Business
3-5:30 p.m. Informative Program: Joburg, Your Gateway to Africa
3-5:30 p.m. Informative Program: Turn Local Sports Into Televised Events

DAY 2 (Nov. 1)
9-10 a.m. Keynote: We Condemn Piracy
10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Case Studies + Panel Discussion: Selling a TV Project
10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Case Studies + Panel Discussion: Television With a Purpose
3-5:30 p.m. Case Studies + Panel Discussions: Pitch the World — Five projects will be selected in the categories of original TV formats, Docus and Comedy Concepts. Candidates will be given constructive criticism and advice, and development funds will be granted to selected projects.
3-5:30 p.m. Case Studies + Panel Discussion: New Business Models for TV

DAY 3 (Nov. 2)
9-10 a.m. Keynote: Worldwide TV Consumption Trends
10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Informative Program: Content is King, Telenovelas Rules
10 a.m.-1: p.m. Case Studies + Panel Discussion: The Mobile Advantage
2-4 p.m. Informative Program: Foreign TV Policy
3-5:30 p.m. Case Studies + Panel Discussion: The World Loves Content Made in Africa
4:30-6 p.m. Informative Program: Spotlight on Senegal