All posts by John Winfield

Hopster skips into Africa

Preschool learning and entertainment platform Hopster has launched in Africa in partnership with South Africa’s Vodacom and Congolese telecom provider MTN.

Hopster on a variety of devices

Consumers can now watch educational shows such as Bino and Fino, from Nigerian animator Adamu Waziri, and other animated African and West Indian nursery rhymes. International preschool hits such as Pingu and Peppa Pig are also available.

Hopster founder and CEO Nick Walters said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have launched in Africa with both Vodacom and MTN. We see real potential for Africa to be a ‘leapfrog’ market – with a new generation of users moving straight to finding their favourite content mobile first, rather than on TV.”

Customers can access hundreds of Hopster’s educational localised French preschool shows, books and music as part of MTN’s time-based data plan packages, as well as via Vodacom’s new VoD service, Video Play.

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South Africa’s eNCA goes HD

South African news channel eNCA has switched to a high-definition feed and begun a studio revamp.

Joe Heshu

eNCA, which launched 11 years ago on MultiChoice pay TV platform DStv (channel 403), is now available in HD  across South Africa and other countries within the Southern African Development Community.

Joe Heshu, MultiChoice’s head of corporate affairs, said: “In line with our purpose of giving and delighting our viewers with great-quality content and entertainment, eNCA’s launch of the high-tech HD studio on our platform is just one more way of ensuring we can play a role in supporting the growth of the local TV industry and creating lasting partnerships with local stakeholders which will guide the success of the industry.”

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APC contacts NBC over right to reply

The Adamawa State chapter of Nigerian political party the All Progressives Congress has accused media organisations of denying it the “right to reply” in a letter sent to the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission.

The letter, which was signed by the state publicity secretary of the party, Hon Mohammed Abdullahi, said: “After observing with grave concern in the past few months the inability of some media houses in the state to accord us the right to reply, we write to the National Broadcasting Commission seeking clarification.”

In response, the NBC advised the party to take steps for redress, stating that broadcast media houses are required to give implicated parties the right to reply to accusations.

Media organisations in in Adamawa State include Adamawa State Television, Adamawa Broadcasting Corporation (a radio house), and Adamawa Publishing, which is behind weekly newspaper Scope.

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Airtel Nigeria unveils TV service

Nigeria telco Airtel has launched a new TV service named Airtel TV in partnership with Trace Africa, Discover Digital and other content providers.

Dinesh Balsingh

Airtel TV is described as a one-stop platform for everything related to entertainment, including music videos, sports and live TV.

Registered users on the Airtel TV app now have unlimited access to the Airtel TV content library, enabling them to stream various content categories on the Airtel 4G network.

In addition to the VoD service, there is provision for live TV channels such as Fashion Box, Bollywood, Inspiration TV, Al Jazeera English, Bloomberg TV and Trace.

Dinesh Balsingh, chief commercial officer at Airtel Nigeria, said: “Airtel is revolutionising the television viewing experience for all its customers. With Airtel TV, we bring the best shows, best movies and the best of live TV to our customers, engaging them with premium content as well as bringing joy, happiness and laughter to everyone regardless of location, entry fee and income level.

“With our 4G network, which is the most robust and widest in the country, subscribers to Airtel TV will enjoy a smooth and seamless viewing experience without hiccups and interruptions.”

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Hymnodia seeks singers for second run

Hymnodia’s first season aired last year

Reality singing show Hymnodia, which launched last year, has begun accepting entries for its second season.

The show focuses on worship and hymns, preparing talented singers to join a world-class choir performs soul-lifting hymns for all ages.

Singers interesting in participating can apply by clicking here.

The winner of the show will be handed the specially designed top award known as the prize of the Asaph, as well as a brand new car and N5m.

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NCC, NBC develop TV white space guidelines

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) are set to release guidelines for the implementation of TV white space for rural broadband connectivity in Nigeria.

Henry Nkemadu

TV white space refers to the unused broadcasting frequencies in the wireless spectrum, which can be used to deliver broadband internet.

In a statement signed by director of public affairs Henry Nkemadu, the NCC revealed it would organise an industry consultation to present the draft guidelines to all stakeholders.

“In preparation for the industry consultation, the commission is pleased to inform all stakeholders that the draft guidelines will be available on the commission’s website,” the statement said.

“All stakeholders are invited to peruse the guidelines and provide input/feedback on or before the industry consultation (date to be announced). The feedback will give the NCC/NBC the opportunity to make all necessary adjustments prior to the guidelines being finalised.”

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MultiChoice rebrands SA academy

Pay TV company MultiChoice Group has renamed its South African filmmaker development programme to bring it under the broader Talent Factory initiative.

Joe Heshu

The M-Net Magic in Motion academy, established in 2014 with the aim of revolutionising the South African TV and film industry by equipping young talent with skills, will now be known as MultiChoice Talent Factory South Africa.

Joe Heshu, MultiChoice’s group executive for corporate affairs said: “MultiChoice wants its development programme to have a name that would not only resonate with the brand of the business but one that would also speak to the talent that is unearthed each year from the students who participate in the initiative.”

Rolled out in 2018, MultiChoice Talent Factory is aimed at empowering the next generation of film creatives and developing their skills.

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YouNeek perspective

Roye Okupe, writer, director and founder of Nigeria’s YouNeek Studios, offers his thoughts on the state of TV drama, plus the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Roye Okupe

How and why is global demand for African drama changing?
Because the world is getting tired of seeing the same thing over and over again. Africa just happens to be rich in culture and lore – it’s the perfect storm. And we are here to fully satisfy demand for more content inspired by African history and culture. This is why I started YouNeek Studios five years ago.

What are the biggest challenges the African drama industry faces?
Capital. Right now trying to raise money is an uphill battle. We don’t have the luxury of showing data from box office success like Hollywood does. Investors still see Africa as high-risk, though Black Panther has begun to change that narrative.

How is the SVoD boom affecting African drama, both creatively and commercially?
It has become a lifeline. SVoD platforms are more willing to take risks than traditional investors. Because of that, we’re seeing more platforms like Netflix taking chances on not just African-inspired content but content created by Africans.

YouNeek Studios’ animated short Malika – Warrior Queen

What are the biggest challenges that YouNeek Studios faces?
Our latest animated short, Malika – Warrior Queen, generated over 300,000 views on YouTube in just one month. However, we have issues raising the funds to do more episodes. Hopefully, that will change soon as we have several producers, investors and platforms reaching out to us. The focus now is seeing how we can take the success of the short and segue that into a full series or feature film.

How would you describe the current state of the television drama industry?
This is the best time to be alive as a content producer. With VoD, theatrical, social media, YouTube and more, the ways to pitch your content are almost unlimited. Unfortunately, this also makes it extremely competitive as many other producers are able to join the fray. But that’s a good thing because it will bring about more diverse content, which is something the industry has always needed.

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StarTimes wins FA Cup rights

Pay TV broadcaster StarTimes has acquired the rights to air English football tournament the FA Cup in sub-Saharan Africa from now until 2021.

Replacing fellow pay outfit SuperSport as the home of the FA Cup in the territory, StarTimes will show the competition in various languages across its eight sports channels and via its ON streaming service.

StarTimes sport director Shi Maochu said: “This is a significant step for StarTimes. The Emirates FA Cup and the FA Community Shield are among the most competitive national football events and we are really happy to offer them to our subscribers this season.

“We have been building a very solid offer in terms of football for 2020, with national competitions such as Coppa Italia and Bundesliga, as well as European events like the Europa League and Euro 2020.”

The broadcaster’s coverage begins with the third round of the FA Cup, which starts tomorrow.

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Netflix adds Nigerian series

Crazy, Lovely, Cool

Global streaming platform Netflix has added Nigerian series Crazy, Lovely, Cool to its expanding catalogue of Nollywood content.

Directed by Obi Emelonye (Last Flight to Abuja), the hour-long series is a coproduction between broadcaster Trace TV and prodco The Nollywood Factory. It features Nollywood stars including Adesua Etomi-Wellington, Uru Eke and Enyinna Nwigwe.

The series, which was filmed in 2017 on the main campus of the University of Nigeria in Enugu, focuses on the activities of university undergraduates and their lecturers.

Emelonye’s other credits include Badamasi: Portrait of a General, which tells the life story of General Ibrahim Babangida.

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Blue Ant sends Smithsonian to Africa

Big Cat Country: part of Love Nature’s Africa offering

US cablenet Smithsonian Channel and natural history broadcaster Love Nature are set for an African launch following a deal between Beijing-based pay TV operator StarTimes and Canada’s Blue Ant Media (BAM).

The licensing deal is part of BAM’s ongoing expansion in Africa and will see both channels broadcast throughout a number of Sub-Saharan territories via StarTimes’ platforms.

Upon its launch, Love Nature will include titles such as Big Cat Country (6×60’), Dogs with Extraordinary Jobs (5×60’), Great Blue Wild (4×60’) and Monkey Island (3×60’).

Smithsonian will feature series including Apollo’s Moon Shot (6×60’), First Ladies Revealed (4×60’) and stand-alone doc Asian Tsunami: The Deadliest Wave (1×60’) on its initial slate.

Both channels will be launching via StarTimes in HD, and viewers will have access to Smithsonian in English and Love Nature in English and Portuguese.

Ward Platt, CEO of global networks and kids at Blue Ant Media, said: “These new licensing deals significantly grow Blue Ant Media’s footprint across Africa. Bringing the channels to new platforms allows us to share our broad portfolio of stunning natural history and factual programming with more viewers in Africa.”

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9Mobile readies 4G roll-out

Telecoms company 9mobile is to roll out 4G mobile coverage in 16 major cities in Nigeria in the coming months.

9Mobile acting MD Stephane Beuvelet said cities that will benefit from the improved network include Sokoto, Enugu, Eket and Owerri, where there has been a growing demand for mobile data.

“The operator has invested in a massive roll-out of infrastructure that is set to improve network efficiency. 9mobile believes 4G is an enabler for entertainment, doing business and solving problems in Nigeria,” said Beuvelet.

In August this year, 9Mobile secured a US$230m loan from the Africa Finance Corporation that the company intends to use for innovative product development and network efficiency.

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MultiChoice prepares for Ultimate Love

MultiChoice Nigeria has unveiled a new relationship-focused reality show, auditions for which are being held this month.

John Ugbe

Ultimate Love will see eight single men living with eight single women in a house in an isolated location for two months, with the participants hoping to find life-long love.

Paired up based on mutual attraction, the contestants will engage in series of locally inspired activities as they attempt to emerge as the ultimate couple.

Similarly to Big Brother, the housemates will be closely monitored by live television cameras and personal microphones as they interact daily with a counsellor.

Viewers will have the opportunity to vote off their least favourite couple on a weekly basis, while the winning couple will be rewarded with a lavish traditional wedding ceremony and a fully furnished home, among other prizes.

Single men and women aged 23 and above who have an active subscription to DStv or GOtv can register to take part in Ultimate Love by clicking here. Auditions are being held from November 22 to 30.

MultiChoice Nigeria CEO John Ugbe said: “Reality TV shows are immensely popular because they showcase real people experiencing real-life situations, thus connecting with viewers and fans on a personal and relatable level. There are fewer things realer than love, and Ultimate Love, our new and exciting reality show, celebrates this.

The show will air live, 24/7 on all DStv and select GOtv packages starting February 2020.

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Next TV, 9Mobile, LMC link for football

Private media outfit Next TV Digital and telco 9Mobile have signed a deal with The League Management Company (LMC) for the production and broadcast of Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) content for local and international markets.

Shehu Dikko

This five-year deal was sealed in Abuja between LMC chairman Shehu Dikko, Next TV Digital chairman Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim and 9Mobile acting director Olayiwola Onafowokan.

With a projected value of US$200m, the broadcast deal is aimed at allowing free flow of investment into the NPFL in order to ensure the professional and efficient production of NPFL matches for distribution to all interested networks.

Dikko said the transaction stood on a number of “pillars,” explaining: “The first pillar, which is most important, is that we are going to get investment into the NPFL and that will ensure football keeps running and operates in a professional way.

“The second pillar is that we will produce NPFL matches through the investment of Next TV, technical expertise and support. All over the world, league football is driven by production, which means if you don’t produce your content, you will not earn money.

“The third pillar of the transaction is to ensure the marketing and sales of NPFL matches produced across all platforms in domestic and international markets, such as pay TV, free-to-air, mobile, OTT, streaming, highlights and video-on-demand.

“Cash will be put into one pot and, at the end of the day, we will have enough revenue so that we can catch up with the developed leagues. We want to see all our matches on all global networks as soon as possible.”

Ibrahim added: “We are going to go beyond OTT and, with time, ensure we have quality content that can project the NPFL. We are not restricting it. We want to drive the projection of NPFL through OTT and digital technology and share the content with others who will be willing to use it, whether it’s terrestrial or cable, within and outside Nigeria.”

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DStv adds three factual channels

MultiChoice-owned pay TV operator DStv has added three factual channels to its line-up.

Yolisa Phahle

The new networks are CBS Justice, which will replace A+E Networks UK’s Crime + Investigation channel; factual entertainment net CuriosityStream, which was launched by Discovery founder John Hendricks; and Euronews, which returns to the platform it left a few years ago.

MultiChoice general entertainment CEO Yolisa Phahle said: “We’re thrilled to finally announce the launch of these channels that will expand the line-up of new programming for our DStv customers to enjoy.

“CuriosityStream will give our viewers informative entertainment that the family can enjoy together, and it’s with great pride that we are able to launch CBS Justice, a new true crime channel which is part of the CBS AMC Networks EMEA portfolio of channels. We’re also delighted to expand our viewers’ choice of news and actuality programming with Euronews.”

CuriosityStream will feature factual programming including original and exclusive films and series, with titles ranging from Deep Time History and The History of Food to Age of Big Cats and Breakthrough.

CBS Justice will feature a curated selection of original and acquired programming, including original productions The Real Prime Suspect, Donal MacIntyre’s Murder Files, Secrets of a Psychopath and Evidence of Evil; plus acquisitions Cold Justice, Fame Kills and Stalker.

Clint Stinchcomb, president and CEO of CuriosityStream, said: “CuriosityStream is thrilled to premiere on DStv, collaborating with MultiChoice as our inaugural bundled distribution partner in Africa. Viewers are hungry for high-quality, engaging and entertaining factual shows, and CuriosityStream is proud to offer our channel to this important media market.”

Louise Cottrell, senior VP, affiliate partnerships for AMC Networks International UK, added: “This new launch highlights the growing demand for true crime content in the region, and we are thrilled to offer MultiChoice’s DStv customers exclusive access to authentic documentaries and series for the first time on CBS Justice.”

Carolyn Gibson, chief revenue officer at Euronews, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with DStv to reach even more households on the African continent.”


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StarTimes brings satellite to 1,000 villages

Pay TV operator StarTimes has  completed its effort to bring satellite television to 1,000 villages across Nigeria.

David Zhang

The move is part of a bid to ensure local communities and disadvantaged people have access to information.

StarTimes chief operating officer Tunde Aina said the solar-powered project, which comes via a grant from the Chinese government, will be managed and maintained by StarTimes for a period of five years.

“The essence of this project is that we want to grant access to people who are disadvantaged, who otherwise cannot afford to access information.”

StarTimes CEO David Zhang commended the Nigerian and Chinese governments for giving the company the opportunity to embark on the project.

“I wish to applaud the Nigeria Government, respective state governors and officials as well as the Chinese Government for the cooperation, support and guidance that was extended to StarTimes Nigeria being the implementation agency for this project in not only promoting access to digital television across the country but also enhancing people-to-people cultural exchange.

“Over the past year, we have gone across the country into different states working with local leaders and communities to successfully implement this project. We have experienced the different cultural aspects of the country and all we have to report is the warm welcome, cooperation and goodwill we received and the great appreciation by the beneficiaries of this project.

“It is our belief that this project is a true testament of what can be achieved in cooperation between governments and the input of the private sector in promoting the socio-economic and political prosperity of our economies.”

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NBC to begin analogue switch-off

The National Broadcasting Commission has revealed that the process of switching off Nigeria’s analogue broadcast signal will begin in Abuja next year, followed by Enugu, Kaduna, Jos, Osogbo and Ilorin.

Mallam Is’haq Modibbo Kawu

Announcing the news at the recent general assembly of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria in Lagos, NBC director general Mallam Is’haq Modibo Kawu said the Nigerian government would release a full timeline for the digital switchover (DSO).

The government is aiming to ensure that a digital signal reaches at least 95% of the population. Information and culture minister Alhaji Lai Muhammed said: “With the DSO, the new broadcasting code will mainly focus on the protection of the creative property of content producers.”

Meanwhile, Godfrey Ohunbunwa, acting chairman of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria, expressed concern over the slow pace of Nigeria’s digital transition. “Regulation and funding are crucial to the success of the DSO and, without firm regulation, there would be no clarity of purpose for the DSO,” he added.

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NigComSat backup satellite on hold

Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat)’s plan to launch a backup satellite using a US$150m Chinese loan has been put on hold.

The backup satellite was one of the projects brought before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for consideration by the former minister of communications, Adebayo Shittu, but negotiations over the loan arrangements could not be concluded before the FEC was dissolved.

However, NigComSat is moving ahead with other projects to support its infrastructure and bolster its commercial operations.

According to its 2020 budget announcement, around N112.1m will be used for improving its teleport security solutions, N105m will be used to upgrade its satellite control centre, N369m will be used to overhaul radio frequency and hub infrastructures and N92.4m will be used by its public satellite TV channel.

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Nigerian stories at Content London

The Developing Markets strand at the International Drama Summit, part of C21Media’s Content London event, will examine how Nigeria is quickly becoming a source of new original content and fresh talent for the international business.

It will feature top Nigerian authors and writers discussing their development plans and ambitions to build global partnerships with platforms and producers.

TIER 4 tickets are available at £999 + VAT
This is the final discount TIER saving £100 on the full ticket price of £1099
To book your place at this price CLICK HERE

Speakers in this session include:

Leye Adenle, author and writer
Adenle is the winner of the first ever Prix Marianne in 2016, and is a Nigerian writer living and working in London. His short story, The Assassination, in the anthology, Sunshine Noir, was a finalist for the 2017 CWA Short Story Dagger award. Leye has written several short stories under his own name, and over a hundred satirical pieces under various other appropriated names. He is the author of the Amaka Series: Easy Motion Tourist and When Trouble Sleeps, published by Cassava Republic Press and the series has just been optioned by Big Talk Productions and Top Boy producer Yvonne Ibazebo.

His writing has appeared in publications such as the Big Issue, and he has written and recorded pieces for BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service. Leye has also appeared on stage in London in plays including Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again. Leye comes from a family of writers, the most famous of whom was his grandfather, Oba Adeleye Adenle I, a former king of Oshogbo in South West Nigeria. Leye’s latest novel, The Beautiful Side of the Moon, was published earlier this year (Hoatzin Books). He is currently writing the third novel in the Amaka Series.

Kemi Adesoye, writer
Originally trained as an architect, Adesoye’s interest in screenwriting began after discovering a screenwriting book in a university library. Over a ten year career, she scripted short films; Mama Putt, Prize Maze (Mnet) National Cake, The Line Up (Goethe institute). A New You, New Horizons (EbonyLife). Mnet /Endemol series Doctors’ Quarters, Tinsel S1-6, Hotel Majestic and Edge of Paradise.

In 2017, Adesoye was head writer for Mnet’s popular Nigerian series Battleground S1 and season 1 of MTV’s series Shuga Naija. She returned again this year to head write Shuga Naija S4. Kemi penned award winning Nigerian features; The Figurine, PhoneSwap, Omugwo, Lottanna and is currently developing content for local and international markets under her company BKProductions. Adesoye is enthusiastic about stories from a myriad perspectives. For five years she worked as a copywriter and radio on air talent before fully embarking on her “Adventures in storytelling.”

Thomas Ermose Ikimi, writer
Ikimi was born in London and spent his childhood in Nigeria and England, before studying Literature, Philosophy and Creative Writing at Columbia University, New York. In 2010 he wrote, directed and produced his first feature length film Legacy for just 500K in 21 days starring Idris Elba. Legacy premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, and garnered the Best Film Award at the American Black Film Festival, was nominated for Best UK Feature at Raindance in London, was nominated for a British Independent Film Award, and won Best Director at the London Screen Nation Awards 2011.

Ikimi then wrote, directed, produced and edited the long short Nostradamus. It premiered at Tribeca in 2015 and was a Critics’ choice with critics tipping it for a 2016 OSCAR. His follow up in 2018 was another long form short as writer/director/producer/editor The Locksmith which has also met critical acclaim. Ikimi has sold projects to NBC Universal, Fox, Legendary Pictures and Sky and worked in both the UK and US markets consistently over the last decade. As a computer programmer and software developer, Ikimi released the cross platform movie review and rating application QURATOR in 2019 through his tech company.

Kris Thykier, founder, Archey Pictures
Thykier founded Archery Pictures in 2015.  Since its launch, Thykier has developed and produced the television series Riviera for Sky Atlantic, now shooting it’s third season, and the limited series The State for Channel 4 / Nat Geo. Thykier also recently produced the feature film Tolkien starring Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins for Fox Searchlight.
Thykier is currently executive producing the Netflix fantasy series Fate: The Winx Saga and is in pre-production on John Madden’s latest film Operation Mincemeat written by Michelle Ashford and starring Colin Firth.

Before launching Archery Pictures, Thykier headed PeaPie Films: one of the UK’s leading independent film producers. Films produced by Thykier under the PeaPie banner include the political thriller Miss Sloane starring Jessica Chastain; the epic love story Ali & Nino, written by Christopher Hampton; John Wells’ Burnt, staring Bradley Cooper; and Woman In Gold, directed by Simon Curtis and starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. Thykier also developed and produced Trash with Working Title, directed by Stephen Daldry and based on a screenplay by Richard Curtis. Other features produced by Thykier include One Chance, I Give It A Year, W.E., Ill Manors, The Debt, Summer Of ’92, Harry Brown, Kickass and Stardust.

The multi-award winning Content London is made up of four standalone events: The International Drama Summit, The Unscripted Entertainment Forum, Kids Content Futures and Screenomi. The International Drama Summit takes place on December 3/4/5, with Unscripted, Kids and Screenomi taking place on December 6.

Also speaking at the event are:

For more information on Content London 2019, click here.

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BBC Studios extends African reach

BBC Studios has agreed a range of deals to broaden the reach of its content across Africa.

Salim Mukaddam

According to the company, which is the production and distribution arm of UK public broadcaster the BBC, more than 800 hours of its content have been licensed across Africa in the past six months.

Access to BBC Studios titles has been extended through deals with a number of SVoD operators in 22 of Africa’s markets, including Vodacom, Cell C’s Black, MTN and Deod.

The company has also secured a package deal with a leading free-to-air broadcaster in Kenya and agreed a partnership with Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation that will see BBC Studios content air on SBC1 and SBC2.

Finally, in South Africa, more than 230 hours of drama, factual and children’s content have been licensed by MultiChoice SVoD service Showmax.