Africa’s film markets and video content distribution trends (1/2)

by Andy Kozlov (@KozlovAndy)

It’s not a film unless it has a distribution plan.

How about a multi-decade distribution deal?

Distributors are in the game to profit from films that are easy to sell, not to nurture filmmakers. By this logic apparently, an independent film will languish on the shelf indefinitely if it is not marketable.

The same will be true for most of you aspiring TV producers.

Get into the habit of attending African content markets

So where do you look to make yourself marketable? Experience shows, attending content markets is a must. And every month you can be part of one or even a bunch of them, depending on the season.

As you do that, make sure you get to know your buyers’, co-producers’ needs, address their concerns in the bud. In a nutshell — be love-able.

Get both global and local in your narrative. Avoid contrived situations — they suck

Some TV format ideas can make you super famous  more than others. But the general trend is for your narrative to be both global and local at the same time. As Wangeci Murage, managing partner at Nairobi, Kenya-based Media Pros Africa, explains commenting on Russell Southwood’s Netflix in Africa – Three reasons why it will not conquer everything any time soon:

Netflix do acquire content but their main aim is to build their inventory through original productions. Their [January 2016] entry into the “world” market signals an upsurge in local content production, to which they will own full rights.

Content developers have also started shifting their mindset and have began producing content with global appeal and local relevance. This is true of the four African countries [mentioned by Mr Southwood in descending order they are Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Kenya;] so they will find a market.

Russell Southwood is the CEO of Balancing Act, a consultancy and research company focused on telecoms, internet and broadcast in Africa. He is one of those people you can often run into at media markets across Africa.

Speaking of South African film industry, veteran producer Jeremy Nathan estimated in May 2012: we are making 25 to 30 films a year now which is really very impressive. Ten years ago we were only making five or six films a year.

And as Balancing Act points out:

There are currently some 136 VoD platforms in Africa, both local, regional and international.

Outside Africa, Thema TV was the first provider of ethnic TV channels in Europe, particularly in France, with the successful launch of “The African Bouquet“, “The German Bouquet” and the “Indian Ocean Bouquet”.

In Africa, take M-Net, the Naspers-owned terrestrial pay TV channel. In 2008, M-Net’s AfricaMagic, one of the leading channels on the DStv bouquet,  launched Africa Magic Plus the growth of which further prompted a flowering of additional channels that catered for culture and language-specific African communities, inclusive of Yoruba, Hausa and Swahili speaking groups.

In 2013, in Africa there were some 535 local TV channels, each responsible for the transmission of up to 1,000 hours of fresh programs annually.

So on the one hand, the distribution channels are expanding. But so does competition from other African content producers. Mind you, even Ukraine in Eastern Europe now shoots Nollywood films. However that also means that Zimbabwean film distributors get to network with their Slav peers at the likes of Kiev Media Week.

As of 2013, African content production ranged from 3-4,000 hours per year. During the 1990s, this figure was lower than 100.

For African content producers concerned about growing competition, Media Pros Africa’s Wangeci Murage paints a picture as bright as it can probably get in the world of unkown unkowns:

This is an age-old phenomenon that is much welcome in our industry. The likes of DSTV’s Showmax and Buni TV would not be in existence if it wasn’t for forward thinkers such as IROKO TV. They saw a gap and went out to fill it. There may be a few holes in the service delivery but nonetheless, they serve a majority of African and International markets in search of Nollywood content.

€3,000 to 30,000 checks handed directly to directors and producers at the Marché International du Cinéma Africain in Ouagadougou undoubtedly makes a good news story.

But this is where those of you who prefer to think long-term should ask themselves:

Is it worth giving away the exclusivity rights on any broadcast on the African continent for a quarter of a century ?

Whatever your decision is, you also want to avoid becoming totally dependent on the international festival circuit for the distribution of your content.

In Tanzania they say 70% of the population do not have access to TV.  If you feel passionate about reaching out to the rural folks who are underserved by cinemas, have limited mobile internet access (2G?); if you feel like you are called to bridge the gap between indigenous people, rural and urban Africans, consider going it alone. Well..not totally alone:

The global list of your outdoor movie partners is growing like never before

FilmAid International  is committed to a participatory approach, teaching skills and involving local communities with the media making process.

Open Air Cinema with its world’s premiere outdoor cinema systems and inflatable movie screens

Short & Sweet with its largest inflatable screen in South Africa

Sunshine Cinema is a mobile cinema that converts solar power to social impact. Through various short films, facilitated workshops and “how to” videos they address social and environmental challenges through community facilitated engagement.

Cine Vagabundo (The Wandering Cinema), a Colombian non-profit that has recognized the fact that with only 5% of cities and townships that have cinemas, the Latin American nation is not an exception, that something needs to be done to link content producers with their digitally divided audiences on a global scale. And locally — glocally.

The author can be reached on andreakozlov@gmail.com

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