Why is Hollywood suddenly so interested in South Africa?

The entertainment industry has taken a big liking to filming productions in South Africa, even more than usual. Viacom has been particularly active in the market for the past ten years offering 15 networks in Africa, and now fashion is taking a liking to the country as well. The country recently launched a local version of BET this past year, and it came soon after the arrival of Nicktoons and Nick Jr. last September. Although the networks are new to the market, MTV Base, MTV Portugal, MTV, VHI Classic, BET2, and Comedy Central were already at home there.

Many other media giants in the U.S. have built a presence in Africa as major players began to see the growing middle class alongside its resilient economic growth as a golden opportunity. 21st Century Fox’s International Channels has an office in Johannesburg and is currently distributing ten pay TV channels throughout the continent.

The Discovery Channel runs its international business out of London and stated that they have seven pay TV channels on the continent.

Disney also has an office in South Africa and offers networks in Africa as Disney Junior and Disney Channel. NBCUniversal’s channels in South Africa are managed by NBCU International’s headquarters in London that staffs most of their team. The company has in-territory ad sales support and marketing in Johannesburg. Their African channels are Studio Universal, Universal Channel, Telemundo, and E! Entertainment Television.

Back in 2005, Viacom launched its first network in Africa and now has the most comprehensive portfolio of channels compared to all of the international media companies on the continent. With more than 100 million viewers across 52 territories, Viacom’s international base is South Africa and has been the key to pay TV revenue potential.

‘South Africa really was and still is the center of pay TV in Africa,’ stated Viacom International Media Networks CEO Bob Bakish. ‘It makes sense to run our Africa business out of there. But as things have continued to evolve, a couple of years ago we also opened an office in Lagos, Nigeria. That is the largest ad market in Africa and a place where we are spending more time as we grow our business.’

Senior vice president and managing director of VIMN Africa, Alex Okosi added, ‘We have a pan-African proposition across our brands, but South Africa is our anchor.’

Okosi expressed that the business has come a long way in the past ten years, and he would know since he was a part of the team that put together the launch plans for Africa’s first network that included a live Will Smith concert.

Viacom has 60 employees now in Johannesburg and in Nigeria they have 15. ‘Africa has reached a point where we see a huge number of opportunities,’ explains Raffaele Annecchino, managing director and executive vice president, VIMN South Europe, Middle East and Africa. ‘There is an explosion in the pay TV market, growing Internet penetration and there are 300 million mobile users. For Viacom and its multi-platform culture, that is a big opportunity.’

While Viacom is looking for growth in Africa, it is not the only media company aiming to do so. ‘Africa is a strategic market for Fox International Channels with a robust portfolio of Fox and National Geographic brands distributed by our affiliate partners across the continent,’ says Adam Theiler, executive vice president of Fox International Channels Southern Europe and Africa. ‘We are looking forward to introducing new Fox branded sports and general entertainment channels as well as developing content locally in key markets in South, East and West Africa.’

Amidst all the growth going on in the continent, there are some executives that are aware of the possible upcoming and long-term challenges that remain. There are many issues that may be slowing the growth process down such as foreigner’s concerns for safety and lack of infrastructure amongst other matters.

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