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Creative Africa Brings Content Boom to Cannes

MipTV pavilion unites African creatives under single banner

Following on the heels of its successful MipTV debut in 2017, the Creative Africa pavilion will return to Cannes this week, offering production companies, distributors, sales agents, and broadcasters from around the world a gateway to the rapidly growing African TV market.

Created to help bridge the gap between African TV players and their global counterparts, the pavilion will host more than 60 African delegates on the main exhibition floor of the Palais des Festivals.

“Mip is a huge market, and we find that [companies from] emerging countries…need help to be noticed,” says Ted Baracos, Reed Midem’s market development director. For newcomers attending their first international market, “they tend to get lost.”

The pavilion will include a lounge open to all Creative Africa participants, as well as private exhibition spaces for companies looking to buy and sell content. Along with newcomers from the likes of Tunisia, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Creative Africa will host established players like South Africa’s award-winning production company Rapid Blue; South African telecom and pay-TV operator Econet Media; Ivory Coast pubcaster Radiodiffusion Television Ivoirienne (RTI); Naspers’ fast-growing SVOD service Showmax; and distributor Cote Ouest Audiovisuel, which boasts the world’s largest catalog of African content.

Turnout for the first edition in 2017 was “higher than expected,” according to Baracos, showcasing the pavilion’s ability to provide “more visibility and more awareness” about an African TV market that for many international players remains uncharted territory.

That market is growing by leaps and bounds, with digital-economy think tank IDATE predicting that the sub-Saharan Africa TV marketplace will deliver nearly $10 billion in consumer revenue by 2021. While pay-TV platforms are struggling in the U.S. and Europe, subscriber numbers in Africa are climbing.

According to data from Digital TV Research, the continent’s pay-TV subscriber base hit an all-time high of 23 million in 2017 – a number forecast to rise 74%, to nearly 41 million, by 2023.

Across the continent, there’s a scramble for home-grown content, both from established and newly-launched broadcasters, as well as emerging SVOD and mobile platforms looking to cash in on increased broadband penetration and lower data costs. Regional co-productions are on the rise, while the booming intra-African trade has prompted the  organizers of the Discop TV content market to roll out new editions in Zanzibar this year, and Lagos in 2019.

Foreign players are making greater inroads. Developments like the recent three-series deal inked by Sony and Nigeria’s EbonyLife point to a growing awareness that, in the words of MipTV’s sales manager for Africa, Samira Haddi, Africa is “the next continent for original content from [international] networks.”

Organizers are hoping that events around the Palais des Festivals will help to drive that momentum. A panel discussion on Sunday at 2:30pm will look at whether Nigeria can host the next format boom, while an Africa meet-up at the Palais’ Innovation Hub (Tue., 10am) will offer networking opportunities for African and international players looking to test the waters for future collaborations.

It’s part of a concerted effort by the organizers of MipTV and Mipcom, which is incorporating more Africa-centric sessions into its program, to ensure that African creatives have a seat at the table alongside established global players. “We really want to continue supporting the industry, and putting the African content out there,” says Haddi.

“There is a rich tradition of African story-telling,” adds Baracos. “It’s just [a question of] being able to develop the production means that can get you into global markets.”

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