JOHANNESBURG — The Africa Channel has announced the official launch of a new production arm called TAC Studios which will be made during the Discop Africa TV market taking place Nov. 2-4 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Based in L.A., TAC Studios are being set up to finance and distribute premium lifestyle programming about contemporary African life. They will work with a network of producers and production companies in Africa and around the world.
The move will expand the broadcasters’ existing focus on premium lifestyle content from the continent, with a mix of travel, cooking, music, and reality programming. They new unit is also planning to develop several scripted projects.
“We have been producing shows for several years for our own use, but until now had not envisioned licensing our content to third parties,” says Narendra Reddy, EVP of content and global operations for The Africa Channel.
“After receiving requests from several networks and digital platforms, we realized there is a market for high-quality, affordable lifestyle content reflecting the people and influences of Africa.”
Along with developing and producing new shows, TAC Studios will distribute the channel’s existing library, which features more than 300 hours of premium programming.
According to Reddy, the move underscores the company’s decade-long ambition to acquire and produce content that reflects a different side of contemporary African life.
“Most of the content [at the time] lacked a holistic narrative about Africa and focused on the negatives or very narrow perspectives…of what the continent had to offer,” he says. “Missing were stories of progress and contemporary life about Africa and the diaspora.”
After rebranding in 2013, The Africa Channel began building an extensive catalog of premium HD content. While most of its acquisitions have been licensed from South Africa, where HD has been widely adopted by producers, Reddy says TAC Studios will offer “a huge opportunity to both assist and give voice to story tellers and talent from all parts of the continent.”
The studio launch will also give TAC greater flexibility as it looks to build its brand of lifestyle programming.
“In the past, the company carried the weight of the entire cost of production of all the shows they produced,” saind Reddy. “In addition, the shows were never monetized outside the territories [where] TAC is broadcast,” he added.
“The intent now is to both pre-license shows and seek co-production partners, so that the volume, budgets and quality of production can be increased.”
In recent months, TAC has closed content licensing deals with MNET, BET Africa, Australia’s SBS TV and several airlines, including South African Airways and Kenya Airways.
In the U.S. the channel is available in approximately 10 million homes via cable companies including Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox.
Reddy says the company saw an opportunity to launch its production arm thanks in part to “the explosive growth” of digital and OTT platforms, which have shrunk the cost of distributing content globally, while also attracting subscribers “by targeting and aggregating niche audiences” and fueling a demand for localized content.
The growing reach of social media, he says, has also exposed a new generation of viewers to “multicultural and multinational experiences,” which has made them “more open to consuming content that reflects diverse points of view.” He points to the success of hit series like “Blackish” and “Empire” as evidence of the potential for content that would have once been deemed “too niche.”
He adds, “We chose to introduce TAC Studios at Discop 2016 because it is Africa’s number one TV and film marketplace for content buyers, sellers and independent producers.”