CANNES — Cote Ouest, the pioneering company that first brought Latin American telenovelas to Africa, has re-upped its deal with Brazil’s Globo TV, extending until 2023 its position as the sole distributor of Globo programming in Africa and French overseas territories.
The deal builds on a relationship that the companies forged 17 years ago. Pointing toward Brazil’s rich cultural ties to the continent, Cote Ouest CEO Bernard Azria said the company was renewing its partnership “with an international studio that in my view is the best placed to understand and serve a continent of 1.2 billion.”
“They’ve got content that resonates with the culture of the African population,” he said. “It’s written in the Globo DNA.”
Along with the distribution deal, Latin America’s biggest broadcaster has enlisted Cote Ouest in its search for potential co-production partners on the continent, according to Azria. It’s a move that points to Globo’s growing desire to become a major international co-production player, while recognizing that, in the Cote Ouest topper’s words, “Africa is the next El Dorado.”
Founded in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in 1993, Cote Ouest was launched as a distributor for Hollywood studios before moving into telenovelas and, later, building the world’s largest catalog of African content. In 2013, the company launched its own production arm, to address what Azria saw as a growing desire for homegrown series in Africa.
Pointing to two decades’ experience as a distributor, Azria described the move as “a big turn in the strategy for the company.” However, he added, “the thirst for local productions is getting bigger and bigger everyday.”
Cote Ouest has three series in production: “40 & Single,” a co-production with the U.S. and Ghana, about a Ghanaian fashion designer torn between settling down and staying independent; “21,” a coming-of-age series set in Abidjan; and “Les Bobodiouf,” a comedy from Burkina Faso. Also in development is a South African police drama, “Gospel,” and an untitled co-production between Morocco and Ivory Coast.
The production slate’s range and ambition reflects the company’s devotion to erasing borders. Cote Ouest pioneered efforts to dub popular African series into both English and French, proving that in much of the continent, cultural similarities in neighboring countries can transcend linguistic barriers. That conviction is central to the company’s mission today. “We never invest even a penny in a project that cannot travel,” said Azria.
The vast Globo catalog offers Cote Ouest plenty of options to look at how series can travel in different ways. With “Mister Brau,” a popular musical sitcom about a black Brazilian pop star who moves into an upper-class white neighborhood, Azria is exploring whether to dub the series into French and English or adapt it and rewrite the script for African territories. The two companies are also working together to develop formats that can be sold to local producers.
For Cote Ouest, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, the key to another successful 25 years is finding ways to capitalize on a TV market that’s increasingly global.
“Making content that is able to travel all over the world is crucial,” said Azria. “The future of independent African production is outside the continent.”