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Discop Africa: Africa’s Biggest TV Market Wraps With Eye on Expansion

Plans to unveil new markets, music sidebar in 2018

JOHANNESBURG — The launch of an ambitious new initiative designed toward boosting the fast-growing music business in Africa was one of the highlights of the final day of Discop, which wrapped Oct. 27 at the Sandton Convention Center.

A partnership with ONGEA! Africa, hosts of the annual ONGEA! Eastern Africa Music Summit in Nairobi, Discore was conceived with an eye toward “bringing together TV, film, online content producers and music supervisors to understand what can be found here in the African marketplace,” said Patrick Zuchowicki, general manager of business event organizers Basic Lead.

“We believe music helps TV series travel better,” he added. “Bringing those two worlds together…to discover the talent, it makes sense.”

The partnership with one of the continent’s oldest players in the world of music publishing and rights was built on the fact that they share “a pan-African vision” with their counterparts at Discop, according to Zuchowicki. “They know the industry inside-out,” he said. “They’re going to bring all the intelligence…[and] we’re going to bring the content.”

The first edition of Discore will be held at Discop Abidjan in May 2018.

Also this week, Zuchowicki and Discop partner Francoise Lazard announced that their new LA-based film and TV project development label, Ideas for Film, was teaming up with Emmy-winning South African producer Dan Jawitz, of Fireworx Media, on “The Day of the Covenant,” a four-part mini helmed by acclaimed German writer-director Oliver Schmitz. Producer rep Todd Brown, of XYZ Films, will be handling sales rights for U.K. and U.S. territories.

Ideas for Film is also partnering with award-winning scripter-producer Michael Esser on “Diamond Squad,” a prestige drama series about the African diamond trade.

Both series were conceived and packaged to take advantage of existing co-prod agreements between South Africa and Germany, this year’s guest country at Discop. Zuchowicki noted that a number of production and distribution companies on-hand in Johannesburg this week have already expressed interest in the two series.

With a pared-down edition on the floor of the Sandton Convention Center, Africa’s biggest TV content market nevertheless continued to prove fertile ground for global players looking to stake their claims to the continent’s booming TV biz.

“The market felt quieter due to economical reasons,” said Zuchowicki, “but the overall feedback was that the buyers who were in attendance were very, very serious.”

A number of sellers from the continent reported record sales, while overseas producers and distributors felt more competition from local content that Zuchowicki described as “more affordable, [with] better production values, [and] dubbed versions in English, French, Portuguese and Swahili more readily available.”

This week Turkey’s Kanal D International took its first step into the South African market, announcing a deal with local broadcaster e.tv. And Canal Plus International had a busy week, signing an agreement with Lagardère Studios subsidiary Keewu Production to produce the police comedy series “Sakho and Mangane,” while announcing that production is set to begin on the prestige drama series “Agent,” a co-production with Mauritius’ Cinebar Studios and Collective Dream Studios.

With a full slate of meetings throughout the week, Canal Plus Overseas’ Francois Deplanck noted that Discop was still a vital gateway into the African market. “It’s important to be here,” he said.

As Discop looks ahead to 2018, it plans to follow its Abidjan market in May with a new East African edition, held in Zanzibar next July. That will be followed by a highly anticipated Lagos launch in 2019, where it looks to take advantage of the booming industry in Nigeria, which PricewaterhouseCoopers recently predicted would have the world’s fastest-growing entertainment market in the next five years.

Along with Discore, organizers are planning a program called Discomics, aimed at the animation and video game industries.

Basic Lead is looking to triple market attendance by 2020, an expansion that points to how cross-border trade in Africa will be the dominant force in shaping a market “fueled by local content and regionalization of business,” according to Zuchowicki.

“Within the next five years, the Sub-Saharan African marketplace is expected to grow by 35% and become the fastest-growing world region for entertainment content business,” he said. That growth “will be driven by original, multi-platform entertainment content produced in Africa, reinforced trade between sub-Saharan African countries, and intra-regional co-production initiatives.

“People from Nigeria are not going to go to Sweden to sell their content,” he added. “They’re going to stay in Africa. That’s where their prime market is.”

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