All posts by Gary

MultiChoice vows to back industry

Pay TV outfit MultiChoice Group has promised to support the local entertainment industry through this tumultuous time of the coronavirus pandemic.

Calvo Mawela

Calvo Mawela, CEO of MultiChoice, noted that as a result of the challenges faced by partners in the industry as well as challenges brought about by the pandemic with various sectors across the continent trying to adjust and find ways to deal with them, MultiChoice has decided to implement several measures, aimed at safeguarding the incomes of cast, crew, and creatives as well as the sustainability of production houses so as to steer the industry through this pandemic period.

He added that the company had set aside R80m to ensure that current productions are able to pay full salaries of cast, crew and creatives for the months of March and April, so as to keep the industry vibrant.

“We believe this to be critical for the industry and in our view this is simply the right thing to do. Our main concern is to ensure as much as possible that we secure the incomes of creatives, cast and crew over this period. We want to ensure that they and their families are not negatively impacted as work has come to a standstill,” said Mawela.

Furthermore, the group has committed to guarantee the incomes of freelancers in SuperSport productions, who are currently unable to work due to the suspension of sports and the national lockdown.

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StarTimes launches Covid-19 app

Pay TV operator StarTimes has launched a self-assessment app on StarTimes ON to offer African users practical tips on how to protect themselves from Covid-19.

The Covid-19 self-assessment system was co-developed by the Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Tsinghua University and the University’s School of Clinical Medicine and was launched in Africa with the support of Chinese digital TV provider StarTimes Group.

The self-assessment service is in multiple languages including Chinese, French, English, Portuguese, and Swahili and it is available in 45 countries.

Its aim is to help the public know more about the virus and their status by answering questions on their health conditions and recent travel history. Users will get an evaluation result indicating the risk level of infection, determine how to seek further care, relieve anxiety and fear and provide health suggestions.

The system has been reviewed and approved by a panel of international experts and has been used on trial by more than 10 million users in 19 countries. People living in sub-Saharan Africa can access it using the StarTimes ON mobile application.

Amy Pang, the general manager of product operation department in StarTimes, said: “As a company operating in Africa, StarTimes hopes to make full use of its own advantages to contribute to the common anti-pandemic war across the continent. We would like to make the most of our media platforms in sharing effective information and methods against the pandemic to benefit African people.”

Users can access the self-assessment service on the front page of StarTimes ON.

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Netflix cuts bitrates in Africa

Global streaming platform Netflix has decided to reduce streaming bitrates in Nigeria and in other African countries to help mitigate congestion on internet providers and networks.

While several African nations have gone into a lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, the streaming giant believes the reduction will provide significant relief to congested networks without significantly affecting streaming quality.

The reduction, which has already been launched in Italy and Spain, will be in effect for the next 30 days.

Netflix’s VP content delivery Ken Florance said: “Given the coronavirus crisis, we’ve developed a way to reduce Netflix’s traffic on telecommunications networks by 25% while also maintaining the quality of our service. So consumers should continue to get the quality that comes with their plan, whether it’s ultra-high, high or standard definition.”

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MultiChoice sets up Easter TV channel

Pay TV operator MultiChoice will launch a special Easter weekend pop-up TV channel on April 9.

This African Easter channel is being organised by TBN Africa and is designed for Christian viewers who subscribe to DStv Premium, Compact Plus, Family and Access.

Its aim is to provide religious content to viewers who cannot attend church services because of the national lockdown caused by the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa and also broadcast content for various Christian denominations who celebrate Easter.

Lucky Mbiko, TBN’s MD, says the channel is “partnering with churches and some of the biggest gospel artists to bring you the best Easter worship experience to as many viewers as possible. Join us on the African Easter channel 343 on DStv for four days during the Easter weekend.”

Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice Group’s CEO, said the pay TV operator will assist millions of South African worshippers who regard Easter as a pivotal period of worship.

“As a responsible broadcaster, we are more than happy to partner with the department of communications and digital technologies as we afford worshippers to observe Easter from the comfort of their homes,” said Mawela.

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, South Africa’s minister of communications and digital technologies, said the department appreciates MultiChoice’s move.

The programmes will be aired on channel 343 and will broadcast music programmes, sermons, church services and religious programming until Easter Monday April 13.

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MTF offers free online masterclasses

The MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) has begun accepting registrations for its new online masterclass series available on the MTF portal.

Yolisa Phahle

Starting off with a 20-module masterclass series tagged Produce Like a Pro, the masterclass offers exclusive access to practical, expert-led skills workshops that afford film and television professionals the ability to interact and learn from the best in Africa.

According to Yolisa Phahle, CEO of general entertainment, the offering is part of MultiChoice Group’s mission to upskill emerging creatives and seasoned professionals in the Film and TV industry.

The Produce Like a Pro series will compliment recorded masterclasses which address industry concerns such as accessibility, opportunity and quality in local productions and is available to over 25 000 registered users with a profile on the MTF portal.

“What makes the Produce Like a Pro series unique is that it’s been specially designed as an A to Z package for tools and templates to equip new producers with the know-how to operate in this industry. From budgeting to casting, the modules have been created by Marie Rosholt, a highly esteemed pioneer in reality television as executive producer of 12 series of Big Brother, Survivor, Fear Factor, Deal or No Deal and other series,” said Phahle.

“The recorded masterclasses have been filmed and packaged by our MTF students sharing the industry masterclasses hosted by our MTF Academies in Lagos, Nairobi and Lusaka, with leading industry experts including Tunde Kelani, Christian Epps and Steve Gukas.”

The MTF portal is a pan-African, film and television digital marketplace for information sharing on all aspects of Africa’s creative industry. The MTF portal offers open, cost-free access to film creatives across Africa to showcase their talent, access opportunities, stay up to date with industry news and expand their industry network.

To register, click here.

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HFA TV debuts on Airtel TV

African fashion channel HFA TV is now airing via the Airtel TV network.

The 24-hour fashion channel focuses on the continent’s fashion industry, giving viewers an insight into what happens backstage and in the front row at fashion shows, highlighting stylists, designers, models and more.

Its shows include ICYMI: Haute Outside, Haute List: Top Dix and Shop My Closet.

HFA TV CEO Oluwadamilola ‘Wadami’ Amolegbe said: “With over 30 million mobile data subscribers in Nigeria, Airtel is offering its users added value with the introduction of HFA TV and helping us keep to our mission to preserve and promote African fashion.”

HFA TV is available free on the Airtel network as long as you download the Airtel TV app. The channel can also be watched in Nigeria on FreeTV (Channel 821) and PlayTV (Channel 200).

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Nigerian film production faces shutdown

The Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) has revealed it is considering cancelling movie productions in some locations around the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Emeka Rollas

According to the president of AGN, Emeka Rollas, an effort is being made to liaise with the executive producers so that movie productions can be cancelled for three weeks.

He added that since the federal government has shut down some areas, the AGN must also take measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We are talking to producers to see how they can hold on in terms of movie production for three weeks,” he said.

Agility Onwurah, the former chairman of the Abuja chapter of AGN, appealed to the federal government to partner with the organisation to redouble its efforts in increasing awareness of the need for social distancing. He added that if actors engaged in raising awareness, it would help to reduce fear and tension about the pandemic in the country.

He said that although the cancellation would have huge economic implications for the industry, the safety of the AGN’s members was of the utmost importance.

He urged producers to cancel productions in order to not put the health of crews in jeopardy.

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SONTA, Plume & Partner in N1bn deal

The president of the Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists (SONTA) Alex Asigbo and CEO of creative firm Plume and Partner Samuel Bob-Manuel have signed a production deal valued at N1bn aimed at boosting the creative industries in Nigeria.

Alex Asigbo

Aimed at bridging the gap between the stage and the screen, as well as between theory and practicals, the deal will involve more than 45 universities and 20 colleges of education in Nigeria offering courses in theatre arts in a project that revolves around the production of movies and documentaries, tagged Project Hostage.

Theatre arts departments across the country will be involved in the production of 35,000 hours of audio-visual programmes, which span 90 epic and contemporary movies of about 120 minutes, 45 minutes advocacy documentaries on any issue of interest and 45 campus series of 20 minutes.

Bob-Manuel said his company was motivated by the need for quality content in the country’s movie industry and said that production would not fall short of the required standard in both artistic and technical contents.

“Theatre arts departments are expected to develop scripts for entries in the different categories while Nollywood actors shall be included in lead roles in order to give the movies commercial value,” he said.

Samuel Bob-Manuel

“Project Hostage will have a strong academy of judges made up of one nominee each from member universities of SONTA and five nominees from Plume and Partner to rate performances in various categories of awards, which include best picture and best actor of each season.”

He added that 88 professors, 122 PhD holders and over 10,000 theatre arts undergraduates would participate in the auditions to be conducted in various set roles as they would be featuring in the script developed by respective universities.

“We are not discarding those already in the field because they brought the industry this far. So, to give the production commercial value, actors should be part of the production. It is also a very big opportunity for streaming companies, who should go into Nigerian market with the production that we are into partnership with SONTA. It is the biggest production deal in Nigeria, having SONTA side by side,” he said.

“We are bringing in a lot of intellectual and creative expertise to make this a success. It will generate job opportunities for artistic and technical crew as well as the undergraduate students not less than 10,000 across various universities who would be vying for various roles in the course of the production. We thank SONTA for giving us the opportunity of working with them.”

According to Asigbo, involving academia in movie content would boost the industry with quality content that will take care of several unprofessional movie products in the market.

He said that an academy of judges would be drawn from lecturers in every theatre arts department for screening and selection of the best scripts from both regional and national levels, while theatre arts graduates who are already professionals and whose appearances would enhance the production would be brought in to feature alongside the younger generations of artists.

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NCC’s Onwuegbuchulam steps down

Felicia Ngozi Onwuegbuchulam has retired from her position as director, Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Felicia Onwuegbuchulam with her husband Chief Charles Onwuegbuchulam (left) and Umar Danbatta

Her professionalism and contribution to the NCC’s corporate governance process bolstered the regulatory efforts of the commission, according to Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman and chief executive of NCC.

Onwuegbuchulam was one of the commission’s most innovative management staff, said Danbatta. She introduced many innovations to ensure effective delivery of the commission’s mandate, especially to strengthen consumer protection in the telecoms industry.

Danbatta said: “We will greatly miss her as she retires from the service of the commission. She introduced a lot of innovations in all the departments where she had the privilege to serve while in the commission, and she has really advanced the delivery of NCC’s regulatory mandates.”

Onwuegbuchulan is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, fellow of the West African Society for Communication and Administration and a member of the Association of Business Managers and Administration of Nigeria.

She worked in the finance services department, audit department and the Universal Service Provision Fund before her deployment to the CAB, where she became director in March 2018.

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NBC tours broadcast stations

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has commended the management of Yaba College of Technology for providing quality equipment for Yabatech Radio 89.3FM.

The commendation was given by the zonal director of the NBC, Chibuike Ogwumike, when he toured all broadcasting stations within the Lagos zonal office to familiarise himself with their system of operation, while also ensuring the stations do not run foul of the NBC code.

Another aim of the tour was to enhance mutual cooperation between Yabatech and NBC, ensure that the national broadcasting code is being adhered to strictly and to assess its level of preparedness before going into full broadcasting.

“I’m really impressed with the level of facilities put in place here, the equipment I have seen here is of top quality, which some commercial radio stations in Lagos do not have,” he said.

He added that the NBC would partner with Yabatech Radio in the areas of training, retraining and molding of future broadcasters.

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Discovery gives O’Neil senior role in Africa

New York-based media giant Discovery has appointed Clare O’Neil as commercial director for the company in Africa.

Discovery has worked in Africa for 25 years and is a leading global content provider of factual entertainment with eight channels: Discovery Channel, HGTV, TLC, Food Network, ID, Discovery Family, Travel Channel and Real Time.

O’Neil, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the media and broadcasting industry, will be driving commercial growth for the company’s eight TV brands in the region.

Based in Johannesburg, she will be part of a larger contingent team in the Dubai office led by Amanda Turnbull, Discovery’s general manager for Middle East and Africa.

She started her career at the Argus Group and fulfilled multiple roles at M-Net, served as the commercial sales director at e.TV, general manager of television sales and non-executive director at the SABC and was CEO of The Broadcast Research Council from 2015 to 2018.

O’Neil said: “I have an unflagging passion and tested dedication to the media and broadcasting industry and I am extremely excited to embark on this new journey with Discovery. A big part of my role will be to focus on new advertising avenues and to ensure that our partners tap into our dynamic brand through the opportunities that exist across the eight channel verticals.”

Turnbull said: “We are investing in local expertise with this appointment and view it as a firm statement of intent and commitment and an important step forward in bringing the right balance between local and global, while unlocking opportunities beyond the traditional broadcast scope.

“With the addition of Clare, our Johannesburg team brings deep broadcasting and media expertise and I look forward to extending our business footprint within Africa through valuable partnerships in the free-to-air and digital space via collaboration and aggregation.

“This could mean using a broadcaster’s expertise and heritage or building an audience in a new area by collaborating with a partner and using their platform to bring content to life and package it in new and creative ways.”

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AMVCA crowns winners

AMVCA hosts IK Osakioduwa and Amina Abdi Rabar

The seventh edition of the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) took place on Saturday at the Eko Hotels & Suites in Lagos.

Anchored by Amina Abdi Rabar and Ik Osakioduwa, the event had media personalities and Nollywood stars in glamorous outfits.

The nominations included Best Short Film/Online Video, Best Movie West Africa, Best Overall Movie and Best Television Series. Other special awards were the Trailblazer Award and Industry Merit Award.

Veteran broadcaster and filmmaker Peter Igho and his son Tosin Igho were honoured with the Legend award and Best Picture award respectively. Peter Igho received the industry merit award for his tremendous contribution to the film and television industry.

The Best Television Series award was taken by Truth (Anis Halloway), beating three other nominees including Jenifa’s Diary, Life as It Is and Women.

The winner of the best documentary award was Beverly Naya for her film Skin. Other nominees were Hidden Euphoria (Aderogba Adedeji), Against All Odds: A Tale of Resilience (Aderemi Davies) and Ibadan: Yoruba Heritage (Tunde Oladimeji).

The Best Movie for West Africa was awarded to Steve Gukas for his film Living In Bondage. Other nominees were God Calling (Momo Spaine), Seven (Tosin Igho), Elevator Baby (Victoria Akujobi) and Ratnik (Dimeji Ajibola).

Promises (East Africa) won the MultiChoice Talent Factory Award out of the six films that were produced by students of MTF’s class of 2019 and nominated by the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards in the newly launched MTF Award category. Other nominees included Life of Bim (West Africa), DreamChaser (West Africa), Ensulo (East Africa), Savannah Skies (Southern Africa) and The Painting (Southern Africa).

The new award for Best Dressed Male and Female went to Mike Edwards and Mercy Eke of the just concluded Big Brother Naija season four, while the Trailblazer award was given to Nollywood actor Jide Kene Achifusi (aka Swanky JKA) in recognition of an outstanding performance in Living in Bondage in which he played the lead role. He also won a new car.

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Netflix, Boyega to develop African stories

Star Wars’ John Boyega formed prodco UpperRoom

Star Wars actor John Boyega’s production outfit UpperRoom has teamed up with Netflix to develop non-English-language films drawn from Africa.

UpperRoom will develop film projects based on stories, cast, characters, crew, literary properties, mythology, screenplays and/or other elements from African countries, with a focus on West and East Africa.

“Africa has a rich history in storytelling and for Netflix, this partnership with John and UpperRoom presents an opportunity to further our investment in the continent while bringing unique African stories to our members both in Africa and around the world,” said David Kosse, VP of international film at Netflix.

UpperRoom, the independent TV and film production company founded by the British-Nigerian actor in 2016, was set up to facilitate his debut as a producer on hit film Pacific Rim: Uprising, which he coproduced with Legendary Entertainment and was distributed via Universal.

Since then, UpperRoom has been developing a slate of projects including some unscripted content, with its day-to-day operations overseen by Yara Shaikh, VP of productions.

Netflix recently signalled its intention to increase its investment in Africa with the production of its first original scripted series from Nigeria, the yet-to-be-titled Akin Omotoso Project, as well as other African originals Blood & Water and Mama K’s Team 4, which will premiere later this year. Netflix’s first Africa Original, Queen Sono, debuted on February 28.

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StarTimes unveils Afro-Brazilian channel

Pay TV company StarTimes has launched the first ever Afro-Brazilian channel, Nina Novelas.

Aimed at boosting StarTimes’ telenovela offering to subscribers, the new channel will feature family-oriented stories leveraging the cast’s strong African heritage.

Regional marketing director Aldrine Nsubuga said: “Telenovelas have been enjoying constant success among our subscribers. Nina Novelas will therefore complement our similar content genre offering, such as ST Novela E and ST Novela E Plus. Furthermore, Nina Novelas will offer numerous African series, which is consistent with our strategy of promoting local productions.”

The launch means StarTimes subscribers will have access to at least six new episodes of different African and Brazilian telenovelas daily, ranging from teen, family, world, family, classic, action and crime stories, while on weekends they will be able to watch all the episodes broadcast during the week.

Nina Novela will be available on Classic Bouquet (channel 80 on StarTimes terrestrial platform) and Super Bouquet (channel 140 on StarTimes satellite platform).

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Naija Hood Rep seeks contestants

Production company Nevada Bridge TV’s reality show Naija Hood Rep has begun registrations for contestants.

The show, open to Nigerians over the age of 18, is looking for participants from all over Nigeria who can represent a neighbourhood they once lived in.

The 10-week reality show will have 21 housemates live in one house and engage in various challenges while competing to win a grand prize.

The winner of the show will be awarded N20m and a car, while the second- and third-place winners will receive N10m and N5m respectively.

Auditions will be held in Benin, Warri, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kaduna, Ibadan and Lagos on March 28 and 29, April 18, 24 and 26 and May 1, 2 and 3 respectively.

To participate, download the Nevada Bridge TV app or click here. The deadline for registration is yet to be announced.

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NBC kicks off broadcast reforms

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has begun implementing planned reforms of the Nigerian broadcast industry .

Lai Mohammed

Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, revealed the news at a meeting in Lagos with Filmic Group, a platform for creative industry practitioners such as content producers and directors.

The reforms were approved by President Muhammadu Buhari and are aimed at further strengthening the NBC’s regulatory role and improving the creative industry, unlocking its potential for employment generation and wealth creation.

According to Mohammed, the process for the amendment of the NBC Act had begun and an executive bill would be sent to the National Assembly for legislative action.

On November 19, the NBC reforms implementation committee handed its report to the minister with recommendations geared towards reinforcing the regulatory role of the commission and unlocking the creative talents of Nigerians by ending monopoly and anti-competition in the broadcast industry.

Buhari approves 65 radio, TV licences

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has approved 65 new radio and digital television licences across various regions of the country.

This comes months after the president’s recent move to license radio and television stations, which sparked mixed reactions.

The beneficiaries include the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corp, which each acquired a radio FM broadcasting licence; the Nigeria Customs Service, with radio and television licences; Blueprint newspapers, which received a freeview digital terrestrial television licence; Rhola Vision Engineering, Leadership Group and Abuja Municipal Area Council, amongst others.

The NBC said: “Consequent upon the approval granted by the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, the National Broadcasting Commission has released the list of 65 successful companies and institutions of higher learning recently granted radio, digital television and university campus radio broadcasting.

“In summary, 43 companies have been granted FM radio broadcasting licenses, eight campus FM radio broadcasting licences, one community FM radio broadcasting licence and 13 freeview digital terrestrial television licences.”

However, according to the commission, there were no available frequencies for assignment in Lagos and Abuja.

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Awards to go ahead despite virus fears

African pay TV group MultiChoice has revealed that it will still go on with the production of two of its own award shows in Nigeria despite coronavirus cases being confirmed in Nigeria and South Africa.

The ceremonies, the 2020 DStv Mzansi Viewers’ Choice Awards (MVCAs) in South Africa and the seventh Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCAs), are both set to be held on March 14.

According to MultiChoice: “Next Saturday’s live televised award ceremonies are both still a go and we are monitoring the situation closely and taking it day by day.”

No events or productions have been cancelled or scaled back. Production is also continuing on M-Net’s eighth season of Survivor South Africa, entitled Survivor SA: Immunity Island, while BBC Studios Africa is continuing with a media event and press screening on Saturday of its new documentary series Seven Worlds, One Planet, coming to BBC Earth (DStv 184).

South African public broadcaster e.tv News, eNCA, MultiChoice, M-Net and StarSat are yet to make any public statements about what they might be doing differently in light of the coronavirus and its spread across the continent.

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Africa Magic awards hosts named

AMVCA hosts IK Osakioduwa and Amina Abdi Rabar

Africa Magic has revealed the hosts for the seventh edition of the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards.

Media personality IK Osakioduwa and a new female co-host, Amina Abdi Rabar, will front this year’s event, which takes place on March 14 at the Eko Suites and Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Rabar is a top Kenyan TV and radio presenter who has worked on various shows on the DStv platform such as MNET’s lifestyle and entertainment show Moments on Ebony Life TV, Maisha Superstar on Maisha Magic East and currently The Turn Up on Maisha Magic East.

Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, channel director at Africa Channels, said: “We are excited to present Amina Abdi Rabar as the new female co-host of the edition of the AMVCAs. She is vivacious, full of wit and has a very cheerful personality. We look forward to her and IK bringing some magic on stage as we gather to celebrate the best in film and television.”

In addition, a new category, Best Dressed Award, has also been introduced aimed at celebrating the best of fashion and style at the glamorous event while honouring outstanding performances in film and television across the continent.

“We are excited about this new category because not only is the AMVCA a night when the best stars in African film and TV are celebrated, it is also famed for being the biggest showcase of fashion, glitz and glam on the continent,” said Uzoukwu.

“We look forward to this addition to the awards event and we urge celebrities and guests to make a bold statement on the red carpet and enter for a chance to win the inaugural AMVCA Best Dressed statuette. The award for the best dressed male and female at the event will be voted for on Instagram by fans and viewers across the continent on the awards day.”

“The event, which will host Africa’s top movie stars, creatives and filmmakers, will be broadcast live on all Africa Magic channels on DStv and GOtv at 4pm WAT.

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StarTimes debuts BabyTV

BabyTV musical series Tutti Frutti

Pay TV company StarTimes has launched a television station dedicated to toddlers and parents on its African platform.

BabyTV, the new 24/7 kids’ TV channel that began airing on StarTimes in March, provides content created by educational experts for children below the age of five in a commercial-free environment.

The educative channel is designed to accompany the family routine and is divided into daytime and night-time broadcasts. It is filled with series of stories, songs, rhymes, games and activities involving loveable characters as well as gentle visuals accompanied by soft and soothing music.

The programmes include Tutti Frutti, a musical series; Rocco, the story of a squirrel’s challenges; Teeny & Tiny; and Beep Beep.

The channel airs on channel 358. Launched in 2003, BabyTV is owned by Fox Networks Group, a subsidiary of Disney.

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