Kenya’s capital Nairobi was the center of the African TV broadcasting and film world during the 4th annual Broadcast Film and Music Africa Conference (BFMA). Both content producers and hardware suppliers gathered at the KICC in the city center to showcase their latest products. “The market for African TV content is growing with 20% every year.”
This year’s BFMA theme was ‘Building a world class digital media industry in Africa’ and was organized to explore all avenues through which the government, stakeholders in the broadcast film and music industry can work together. The conference, by Aitec Africa, brought together over 130 local and international experts making presentations, participating in panel discussions or leading training workshops, attended by a large group of broadcast and content development professionals from throughout the continent.
Optimism about the growth of the industry
During the opening speeches the optimism about the growth of the African entertainment industry was evident. The many investment opportunities in the Kenyan film sector were highlighted by the CEO of the Film Commission, who described that Hollywood has made ‘billions’ on the African wildlife movies and series – but that African filmmakers so far could not exploit those ‘natural resources’ because of a lack of expertise and equipment.
The Kenyan government, through the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Arts and Culture, Dr. Hassan Wario, pledged more support to the arts and film industry in Kenya: “The government’s deliberate policy of local content (requiring 60% local content for free-to-air TV broadcasters, BvV) has seen the majority of TV stations incorporate local content in their program line ups. The demand for these programs is ever on the rise especially among the younger generation; this not only creates employment opportunities for these young guys but it provides a platform through which we can share our content with the rest of the world,” Dr. Wario said.
Growing demand for local content
The presentation of Russell Southwood from Balancing Act Africa outlined that the demand for quality local content will only increase in the years to come, with the growing availability of bandwidth, digital broadcasting, LTE (4G) mobile internet, smartphones and tablets on the continent. Russell also promoted his new initiateve Smart Monkey TV, a video platform that brings together interviews with many interesting people in the media world.
It was interesting to see that BFMA was more focused on content production, compared to last year, when the hardware companies played a much bigger role. It is a result of a growing market, as described by DISCOP Africa founder Patrick Jucaud-Zuchowicki. He said: “Last year 550 billion dollars of revenue was made worldwide in the TV content world. And Africa still lacks behind, but we have estimated that this market is growing with 20% every year.” Jucaud-Zuchowicki also sees the quality of the African productions improve every year and he foresees a future where those productions will be sold within the continent but also to other parts of the world.
“No more cheap Mexican soaps!”
All in all, the future for the African entertainment sector looks bright. Aitec Africa founder Sean Murphy mentioned in his speech that the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting is resulting in an explosion of demand for content in unprecedented volumes. “The technology in the industry is evolving on a very fast scale; Mobile and web are vying with terrestrial and satellite as preferred broadcast channels. The rapidly growing youthful audience expects to access their media of choice via multiple platforms,” he said.
Sean continued: “Because of these developments the dominant media houses are going to have to shape out or ship out in terms of commissioning and financing local productions. The era of cheap imported soaps (mostly from South America, cheap content the African broadcasters with prices of $200 to $400 per hour, BvV) will soon be over. In fact I want us all to unite this morning in getting a clear message out to the media houses: “No more cheap Mexican soaps!” I want to add to this by saying to the broadcasters: Stop insulting the intelligence of your audiences. As an industry we can do much better.”
Sean Murphy asked a question in his speech: “Do you realize the unique opportunity that fortune is presenting to you all right here, right now as a result of an historic confluence of factors?”
Investors meet content producers
Investors are realizing more and more that the media industry in Africa is an interesting market for them. Therefore, part of BFMA was the ‘Africa Media Business Exchange’, organized in partnership with FilmBiz Africa and The Growth Hub, to provide a showcase area for creative content start-ups to showcase their products and business ideas to investment funds and angel investors and their production ideas to commissioning editors.
The ideas and quality of the content producers was high, and I’m sure the investors left the venue exhausted after hearing all the pitches. The question is how many investors are going to invest in one of them, especially as some of the funds are primarily looking for seed-stage tech startups. But it is clear that investors realize that as African economies are growing, the media industry is following the upward trend.
For more information see the BFMA website.