Africa: The Africa Channel Is Commissioning New Content and Has Signed a Nollywood Films Deal With Rok Studios

3 September 2021

London — The Africa Channel has a reach of 12 million households in North America and it has recently signed a deal with Canal +'s Rok Studios for Nollywood films. It is also commissioning original content and expanding its SVOD reach. Russell Southwood spoke to Brendan Gabriel, Vice President Creative and Production, The Africa Channel about its work on the continent.

The Africa Channel's key audience is Afro-Americans and it has always bought content from the continent to feed its channels in North America and elsewhere. But as the TV landscape has changed it has sought to create wider engagement with the continent's producers through TAC Studios and its SVOD/AVOD platform Demand Africa.

According to Gabriel (who is based in Johannesburg), TAC Studios has three core functions: the development and creation of new content, not necessarily for the Africa Channel (third party takes include ITV, the BBC and Discovery); extending the Africa narrative focus from the producer perspective; and licensing and acquiring content for the Africa Channel and Demand Africa. On a distribution basis, it sold some titles to Thema for the Canal + launch in Ethiopia, including two cooking shows, May's Kitchen and Africa on a Plate.

The deal with Rok Studios has two parts: firstly, a licence agreement for a highly curated selection of Nollywood films for The Africa Channel, including The Secretary, Ovy's voice, Picture Perfect, Dear Mummy B, A Woman's Scorn, North East and Rough Patches; secondly, "a larger bucket of content" that includes 373 feature films specifically for Demand Africa:"The latter is much wider and within the conventions of Nollywood and aimed at diaspora audiences." The platform was launched five years ago and currently has a reach in "the thousands".

"What we're looking for right now is premium titles. We've also done a deal with a small distribution company called Pozytv Group and we're using the feature films for both The Africa Channel and Demand Africa. These include: A Trip to Jamaica, The Accidental Spy and 30 Days in Atlanta."

In terms of original content, TAC Studios has commissioned a reality series, based in North America, about a Nigerian royal and her search for identity. Last year it made another reality show called Amah Knows Best in which South African rapper Ifani went to China to learn how to cook:"We are looking for content, both scripted and non-scripted. The primary focus has been building up a slate for third party networks." It has also commissioned a four episode series called Escape with Nate - In Search of Black Utopia, fronted by Chicago travel noir podcaster Nate Fluellan.

In Brief

Nigeria: The National Broadcasting Commission has approached the National Information Technology Development Agency (NIDTA) and requested that the nation's IT regulator intervene in the digitisation of its processes to change the Commission's operation by incorporating modern digital technology equipment in monitoring media stations. Accordingly, Balarabe Ilelah, Director-General of NBC, paid a courtesy visit to NITDA Corporate Headquarters, seeking the agency's support.

Tanzanian pay-TV operator AzamTV has added WarnerMedia channels CNN International, Cartoon Network, and Boomerang to its channel lineup in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Malawi. WarnerMedia already has a relationship in East Africa with AzamTV, which distributes Boing and Toonami through its bouquet offering in eight of the continent's English-speaking Sub-Saharan African countries. In addition, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, and Boing are among WarnerMedia's children's pay television channel offerings. Inside Africa, CNN Marketplace Africa, African Voices Changemakers, and Connecting Africa will be available to AzamTV subscribers due to CNN International's addition. The three new channels will be accessible on channel 239 (CNN), 226 (Cartoon Network), and 227 (Boomerang) of the digital satellite service provider's linear pay-TV package Play.

South Africa: Showmax has bought United Apart SA - Lockdown Remembered, the documentary funded by Arena Holdings. It will be available exclusively on the subscription streaming platform from 9 September 2021.

Kenya: The Netflix team that focuses on the Sub-Saharan Africa Region were recently in Nairobi on an exploratory journey to learn, listen and find out more about our Kenya's creative industry from various industry stakeholders. Ben Amadasun who heads up Content Team for the region notes that, "The short story is we're here to listen and learn from the various valued local stakeholders in the Kenyan film industry. As part of our strategy in every market we've focused on the world over, we first start by learning more about the industry, how it operates, and identify opportunities for collaboration with local storytellers and stakeholders within the creative industry ecosystem.

In Nigeria, the Lagos state government is cautioning filmmakers not to use obscenities, vulgar language, scenes of extreme violence, or negative African stereotypes in their films to prevent societal deterioration. According to NAN, Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, the state commissioner for tourism, arts, and culture, at a stakeholder conference recently hosted by the Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board (LSFVCB). The meeting's theme was "Content Development as a Driver for Sustainable Growth in the Film and Video Industry."

Cote d'Ivoire: A television channel in Ivory Coast apologised after airing a show in which a male guest introduced as an ex-rapist showed how he assaulted his victims using a dummy for the demonstration. The programme, broadcast at prime time on Monday by the private Nouvelle Chaine Ivorienne (NCI) channel, caused a massive outcry and sparked a petition signed by 37,500 people demanding that the presenters be punished. Ivory Coast's independent communications council later announced the suspension of popular presenter Yves de Mbella, saying in a statement that the segment used obscene language, condoned rape and attacked the dignity of women.

Uganda: StarTimes, the Chinese media company, has completed the second phase of its Uganda satellite TV project and has now reached an extra 400 villages in the country. The pay-TV system will broadcast educational programming as well as conventional channels. Song Wei, Project Director at StarTimes, said connecting villages is set to start this month and will end before December 25th. He added that homes, public places, schools and offices will be connected with satellite television sets. The first phase of the project saw more than 500 villages and an estimated 500,000 people. As part of the first phase, StarTimes trained local technicians and engineers to help with installation and distribution.

Nigeria: The MultiChoice Group's share price dropped about 8 per cent when Nigeria's tax authority asked that the pan-African pay-TV operator pay a 50 per cent deposit, or US$ 2.2 billion, as part of a "tax backlog" claim totalling US$ 4.3 billion.n In a statement, Nigeria's Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) stated the billion dollars it seeks as a "deposit" from MultiChoice must be paid as a condition for the company's "tax backlog" case to be heard as a "complete appeal" on the matter. As a result, the case has been postponed until September 23, 2021, pending compliance with the court's decision and the approval of the appeals tribunal, which will only hear the case if MultiChoice complies and pays a staggering US$ 2.2 billion "deposit." In addition, Nigeria's tax office ordered lenders to freeze MultiChoice Nigeria's bank accounts in the country to try to "recover" the alleged "tax backlog" money after the pay-tv operator, and its Nigerian subsidiary refused access to their computer servers for auditing.

Netflix released the trailer for the second season of the original South African series, Blood and Water. The mystery-drama series is making a comeback for a new season with new additions that come with secrets of their own. The long-awaited series will return on September 26, 2021.

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