×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Discop: The Africa Channel Eyes U.S. Viewers

The Africa Channel airs a same-day feed of the South African morning show 'Expresso'

As Discop Africa wrapped its 11th edition Nov. 6 in Johannesburg, the focus turned to 2016, when the continent’s biggest TV content market travels to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from May 31-June 2, before returning to South Africa in November.

For the next Johannesburg edition, the spotlight will be on the U.S. as a guest country, with a robust American presence — which this year included Disney, Turner, Viacom and others — looking to take part in a rapidly growing market worth an estimated $1 billion, according to organizer Basic Lead.

It also offers a chance to bring more African content to American viewers.

“There aren’t many outlets in the U.S. that [have] …  Afro-centric content,” said  Narendra Reddy, senior VP of programming and production for the Africa Channel.

With a mission to “present a contemporary view of African life,” Reddy said, the Africa Channel was launched in 2005 for audiences “tired of coverage of Africa [presented] in a sensational way.”

“The point of view was always negative,” he said. “Meanwhile there’s a continent where life goes on.”

For the first few years, the Africa Channel experienced growing pains; Reddy acknowledged that it was widely seen as a “dumping ground” for African content that couldn’t get sold on other U.S. networks.

Since rebranding in 2013 as a lifestyle channel, though, it’s been more focused on acquiring and producing premium content.

Building a catalog hasn’t been easy; with most African content still shot in SD, Reddy said the Africa Channel has almost exclusively licensed its programming from South Africa, where HD has been more widely adopted by producers.

But that’s also opened up opportunities for the channel to produce its own content from elsewhere on the continent, allowing it not only to broadcast premium programming to auds in North America, but to sell it to global players like Canal Plus, who showed interest in the company’s 400 hours of content at Discop.

This year, for the first time, it also aired a same-day feed of the popular South African morning show “Expresso,” offering auds what Reddy described as a chance “to wake up to a piece of Africa.”

Now the network is looking to plant its footprint on the very continent that inspired it, exploring pay-TV carriage deals with South Africa’s DStv and China’s StarTimes, as well as syndication possibilities with BET Africa and South African pubcaster SABC.

Reddy said Discop Africa offered a host of new possibilities for the network, including a chance to work with content creators who fully engaged in bringing their shows to the world.

“If the producers have a vested interest in the show…it takes a lot of pressure off the network having to do all the work of promoting it,” he say. “I like that kind of thinking.”

More TV

  • THE BLACKLIST -- "Katarina Rostova (#3)"

    ‘The Blacklist’ Bosses on Delivering the 'Really Intense Family Drama That We've Been Promising for Seven Years'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Katarina Rostova,” the midseason seventh season finale of “The Blacklist.” Since “The Blacklist” began it has been building towards a confrontation between Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) and her biological mother, Katarina Rostova (Laila Robbins). That promised confrontation was front-and-center in the seventh season [...]

  • REEF BREAK - "Pilot" - When

    'Reef Break' Canceled After One Season at ABC

    “Reef Break” will not be back for a second season at ABC. The series debuted back in June on the broadcaster and aired 13 episodes, with the finale airing on Sept. 13. It starred Poppy Montgomery as Cat Chambers, Ray Stevenson as Jake Elliot, Desmond Chiam as Wyatt Cole, Melissa Bonne as Ana Dumont and [...]

  • Jeff Shell

    Jeff Shell: Who Is the NBCUniversal Heir Apparent?

    Analytical, decisive, loyal, fair, empowering. Those are just a few of the choice words industry insiders who have worked with incoming NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell — set to succeed current chief exec Steve Burke, as Variety exclusively reported — use to describe the longtime media exec.  On Universal’s North Hollywood lot, many insiders who work [...]

  • Reese Witherspoon Kerry Washington Little Fires

    TV News Roundup: Hulu Reveals 'Little Fires Everywhere' Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, Hulu announces a premiere date for “Little Fires Everywhere” and Variety exclusively obtains a first look at this year’s Christmas episode of “The Simpsons.” DATES “Little Fires Everywhere” will debut March 18, Hulu announced. Produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, Kerry Washington’s Simpson Street, and ABC Signature Studios, the show [...]

  • Watchmen Regina King Tim Blake Nelson

    How 'Watchmen' Pulled Off One of the Best TV Seasons of the Decade

    The first time Damon Lindelof realized that “Watchmen” — his adaptation/remix/continuation of the groundbreaking 1986 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons — might actually be a hit was after the pilot debuted at New York Comic Con in October. In the following panel, the 46-year-old writer-producer could tell the audience was connecting with [...]

  • 9-1-1: Angela Bassett in the “Christmas

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of Dec. 2: 'The Good Doctor,' '9-1-1' Top Gainers

    “The Good Doctor” on ABC and “9-1-1” on Fox were the two biggest gainers in the Live+3 TV ratings for the week of Dec. 2. The pair benefited from the absence of NBC’s “This Is Us,” which to date has shown the largest gains across all scripted shows after three days of delayed viewing. “Good [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content