Africa’s romance with telenovelas continues to heat up with the official launch of Romanza+Africa, a 24-hour telenovela channel, in Kenya. A joint venture unveiled at Mip TV 2014 between Mexico’s TV Azteca, Venezuela’s Cisneros Media and digital content distrib Africa XP, Romanza+Africa reaches an estimated 4.5 million Kenyan TV households on digital network Bamba TV, the largest viewership for the fledgling channel.
“We launched Romanza in smaller territories over the past eight months, but Kenya represents its largest market,” said Marcel Vinay Jr., CEO of content distribution company Comarex, which distributes Azteca content, among others. TV Azteca was a pioneer in Africa, being the first to sell telenovelas in the continent 10 years ago, per Vinay.
Romanza+Africa feeds an insatiable demand for the telenovela on the continent, with some Latin American producers either selling their romantic soaps piecemeal or in packages, or launching their own channels. Brazil’s Globo, Colombia’s Caracol and RCN, and Mexico’s Televisa have seen their telenovelas picking up steam in the region.
With the migration to digital TV and the subsequent burgeoning of African broadcasters on satellite and more recently over IPTV — as the continent’s broadband infrastructure has rapidly broadened in recent years — demand for content has grown exponentially. Africa now has over 500 broadcasters in 54 countries.
Some 18 months ago, NBCU’s U.S. Hispanic channel Telemundo launched its dedicated pay TV channel on the DStv platform in 48 sub-Saharan English-speaking territories as well as Angola and Mozambique, with a separate feed for those markets
“With a year-and-a-half behind us, we have made great strides in the market and positioned ourselves as one of the top 10 international entertainment channels on the DStv platform,” said Karina Etchison, senior VP of sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Telemundo Intl. In just five months, Telemundo was sampled by a total of 4 million individuals, nearly a third of the entire DStv viewership.
“As a result, our brand recognition not only as a pay TV channel but our content on individual free-to-air markets has grown and strengthened significantly,“ she added.
With its telenovela “My Heart Beats for Lola” leading the ratings charge, Telemundo ranked as the No. 3 International entertainment channel and the No. 13 international channel of 40 measured DStv channels. In primetime, Telemundo ranked the No. 7 international channel of 40 measured DStv channels.
Africa has also proven a boon for their classics. Even TV Azteca’s old titles, such as “Catalina y Sebastian,” produced in 1999, are finding new audiences, said Vinay.