×

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.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Halsey, Ashley Nicolette Frangipane. Singer Halsey

    Emmys: Halsey to Sing In Memoriam Tribute at Sunday's Ceremony

    Pop star Halsey has been tapped to perform during the Emmy Awards on Sunday, while comedians Adam Devine and Thomas Lennon will also contribute to the telecast. With no Emmy host this year, producers Don Mischer Prods. and Done+Dusted are relying more on presenters and other contributors to keep the show moving, Halsey, whose hits [...]

  • Bianna Golodryga CBS News

    Bianna Golodryga Joins CNN in Full-Time Role

    Sometimes, it pays for news anchors to take root in more than one organization. When Bianna Golodryga joined CBS News in the fall of 2018, she carved out a unique role for herself. She would work as a co-anchor on “CBS This Morning” while maintaining a position she had already established as a contributor to [...]

  • Lower lakes with small waterfalls, Plitvice

    Beta Film Boards Refugee and Drug Trafficking Thriller Series 'Amnesia'

    Beta Film, whose Mipcom lineup includes “Agent Hamilton,” “Babylon Berlin” and “Medici: The Magnificent,” has partnered with Croatian production company Drugi Plan on “Amnesia,” a six-hour thriller series about refugee and drug trafficking in the Southeast of Europe. The move adds to Munich, Germany-based Beta Film’s portfolio of Central and East European series, a growing [...]

  • Reed Hastings seen on day one

    Reed Hastings on the Streamer Wars: 'It's a Whole New World Starting in November'

    After dominating the subscription streaming scene for so long, Netflix is girding for a new phase in the SVOD wars with the entry of more deep-pocketed players like Disney and Apple, CEO Reed Hastings said Friday. “While we’ve been competing with many people in the last decade, it’s a whole new world starting in November…between [...]

  • BBC ITV BritBox Streaming

    Viacom's Channel 5 and Comedy Central Join BritBox Ahead of Its U.K. Launch

    Viacom-owned Channel 5 and Comedy Central have joined BritBox, the “best-of-British” subscription streaming service created by the BBC and ITV. The platform, already available in North America, is due to launch on home turf in Britain by year’s end. Under the deal with Viacom, shows from the U.K.’s Channel 5 can appear on BritBox following [...]

  • The-Head

    Behind the Scenes With Mediapro’s Antarctic Thriller Series 'The Head'

    On Sept. 13, the cast and crew of Mediapro’s upcoming dramatic thriller “The Head” gathered at a swanky Santa Cruz de Tenerife hotel to kick off promotional duties for this English-language series, which will wrap shooting later this month. It was day 50 of production, and the cast had been working late, rushing to get [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content