JOHANNESBURG — Gaming pioneer Atari is looking to become a global TV player, and South Africa will play a key role in that expansion, the company announced at the Discop Africa TV content market in Johannesburg on Nov. 2.
Robert Blagman, CEO of Media Fusion, who’s been contracted to manage Atari’s TV programing for global distribution and syndication, told attendees that the gaming giant’s first TV series, “Game On,” which is currently in development, is looking to shoot in South Africa.
Talks are underway with local production companies for the unscripted reality game show, which will feature players navigating life-sized sets of popular Atari games.
The announcement underscores the belief of Atari execs that South Africa represents “an incredible area of opportunity,” according to Blagman, with the company hoping to use the country as a production base for other programs as well.
“The more we can do down here, the better,” he says.
Since its founding in 1972, Atari has become a cultural reference point for generations of gamers, with a library of more than 200 games, including classics like “Asteroids” and “Centipede,” that it’s now looking to exploit across platforms, with “partners around the world in every sector of media.
“Atari is very pliable,” says Blagman. “It can go in any direction.”
The company promises to deliver a built-in audience base of what Blagman calls “future-focused” fans, along with what Atari execs feel is a unique ability to bring in a range of revenue streams, including from mobile apps, TV and web series, and merchandising.
Along with “Game On,” the company is developing a series with Discovery based on the popular “Codebreaker” video game. It’s also building a mobile app with the Discovery-owned sports broadcaster Eurosport, which last year bought multiplatform rights across most of Europe for the four Olympic Games to be held between 2018-2024.
With South Africa, Atari has found a dynamic base as it attempts to grow its brand. Company research found that 58% of the country’s primary demographic plays video games, with adults making up 62% of the local gaming community. More than half of South African households own at least one console, while 36% play games on their smart phones.
Given the spectacular growth of mobile penetration locally, says Blagman, “that percentage…should double within two years.”
According to Blagman, Atari CEO Frederic Chesnais has expressed enthusiasm for the country’s business-friendly environment. With developed film and TV industries offering skilled, English-speaking crews, it’s an ideal location for a production base that can grow to have global reach.
“It’s a lot easier than you’d think to have audiences and contestants fly into South Africa to film than to build these sets around the world,” says Blagman.
Surveying the busy floor on the first day of the Discop market, he adds, “This place is just filled with opportunities.”