Africa’s biggest TV content market is set to kick off Nov. 2, with more than 2,000 buyers, sellers, and content producers expected to arrive in Johannesburg for the three-day event. By Christopher Vourlias
According to Patrick Zuchowicki, general manager of Basic Lead, the organizer of Discop Africa, more than 10,000 hours of programming will be on offer on the sold-out floor of the Sandton Convention Center.
“There is indeed a real desire to do more business” in Africa, says Zuchowicki.
For the first time since its founding in 2008, Discop added a second market in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, earlier this year, fueled by what Zuchowicki says is a strong demand to tap into what Basic Lead estimates to be a $1 billion-a-year industry.
This year’s Johannesburg market is partnering with the inaugural edition of the Joburg Film Festival, an ambitious international film fest which runs Oct. 28 – Nov. 5.
The decision to pair the events was part of a concerted effort “to put Johannesburg on the map,” says Zuchowicki, while giving Discop attendees “an additional opportunity for these buyers to see what Africa has to offer.”
“By having a platform that promotes films produced in Africa, it makes sense,” he says.
Zuchowicki concedes that 2016 has been a “complicated” year for the local TV biz, with ongoing uncertainty in the continent’s two biggest economies, South Africa and Nigeria, leading many analysts to revise their bullish forecasts for a continent that has seen GDPs steadily rising since the turn of the century.
“From the perspective of this industry, it’s not huge growth,” says Zuchowicki. “But year on year we see growth, which for us is really the big news. That growth has not been altered by the current economic environment.”
Zuchowicki notes encouraging trends, such as the rise in African content that’s export-ready. “There are independent producers…who are coming to the market with TV series in development that have international distribution potential,” he says. There’s also been a growing trend of cooperation across African borders, with regional players like South Africa, Kenya and Ivory Coast looking to do business.
Early buzz around “Brazza,” a “Narcos”-style series starring Idris Elba, set in the criminal underworld of the capital of the Republic of Congo, also seems like a hopeful sign that Africa can play a “leading role” for foreign producers looking for fresh ideas.
“The time is right for such stories, and we see more and more interest from international co-production players in trying to bring…stories into play,” he says.
This year’s Discop shines the spotlight on the U.S. as its guest country, as part of an ongoing effort to assist and encourages American companies to build stronger ties with key African media partners. A special emphasis will be placed on the partnership between the U.S. and South Africa, says Zuchowicki, because “this is a relationship where everybody already feels comfortable.”
Along with the market will be an extensive program of workshops, seminars and panel discussions, and the latest edition of the popular “Meet Your Stars” sidebar, which offers South African producers and distribs a chance to preview new shows, as well as shine a spotlight on returning primetime hits.
Local and international industry experts will be on-hand for pitching competitions looking to foster the growth of the next generation of African creatives. Turner will partner with South African industry body Animation SA to host the first Kids’ Animation Pitching Competition, as part of a pan-African search for the continent’s top toon talent. And the inaugural edition of the Digital Lab Africa competition will field pitches from the creators of a number of innovative web series, mobile apps, online music platforms, and immersive VR content. French players Lagardère and ARTE among the companies that will offer support and mentorship to the winning projects.
Among the other program highlights will be an interactive panel discussion Nov. 2 on female producers, directors, writers, and show-runners, featuring leading media personalities sharing their insights into navigating the world of African entertainment. Confirmed guests include Bongiwe Selane, vice-chairperson of South Africa’s Independent Producers Organization, and creative producer, Blingola Media; Paula Madison, co-owner and consultant, The Africa Channel; and Zain Verjee, CNN International news anchor and founder and CEO of the Zain Verjee Group.