Fri Oct 21 15:11:25 SAST 2016

Africa's TV goes back to its roots

By AFP | Oct 12, 2016 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

It's out with the back-stabbing intrigue of 1980s American soaps Dallas and Dynasty, and the heady drama of South American telenovelas. These days, Africans are enjoying a surge in local television content they can finally identify with.

Local programming has soared in sub-Saharan Africa's key economies, a rise driven by both foreign satellite networks and television stations on the continent.

This growth has delivered up local shows such as Kenya's comedic Real Househelps of Kawangware - a play on the US Real Housewives series - along with talk shows, political satire and continent-wide reality TV such as Big Brother Africa and Project Fame.

And demand is set to grow with the number of households owning a television expected to double to more than 150million in the next 10 years, according to TV market research firm Dataxis. According to Dataxis, Africa's audiovisual market is worth $6-billion (about R82.7-billion) annually, and could reach $8.6-billion in the next five years.

One of the continent's frontrunners in all things big and small screen, Nigeria, has a 70% local content quota, and has had home-grown series running since the 1970s.

"There were local dramas . akin with the telenovelas you have today where we have characters that are larger than life and Nigerians would look forward to going home to watch them at 8pm prime time," said Eugenia Abu, executive director of Nigeria's television authority. "It kind of evolved from there, that this was possible, that stars could be made within Nigeria, that it didn't have to be an American superhero."

Abu said the booming "Nollywood" film industry was largely to thank for the surge in local content.

In rival powerhouse South Africa, the SABC earlier this year announced a 90% target for local content on radio and television. However, in a sign of the challenges faced by broadcasters, local media has decried a resulting ratings disaster at the already beleaguered SABC, as high-income households spurn cheaply made local shows.

Still, Nigeria and SA are exceptions. Smaller African countries have only in recent years seen a burst in home-grown television.

"It takes time, means and artists, to increase local content," said Amoordalingum Pather, director-general of the national broadcaster MBC in Mauritius, which has 17 channels and hopes to move from 10% to 70% local content.

At the first edition of a new African TV industry summit held last month in Mauritius, boosting local content was one of the main topics. For Bernard Azria, whose production and distribution company Cote Ouest has long been a leader in Francophone sub-Saharan Africa, the real debate is getting African companies to share in the burgeoning market.

"There is a window of opportunity for African companies to take ownership of their audiovisual market before foreign companies sweep in and dominate," he said.

Olivier Laouchez, head of French music network Trace said, offering local content is simply "common sense".


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