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‘Future is bright for Zim productions’

On the back of the recently held DStv content summit in Bulawayo at Mpala Conference Centre, IndependentXtra’s Admire Kudita (AK) snagged an exclusive interview with Multichoice Africa’s head of content Cheryl Uys-Allie (CUA).

She is the one with final oversight over commissioned television and film projects across the company’s channels.

AK: What was the motivation behind the summit?

CUA: Motivation: the fact that Zambezi Magic has commissioned the production of 10 Zimbabwean films is a very exciting development. It also shows our commitment and intent on supporting the development of the local film industry.

AK: Why at this particular juncture?

CUA: With intention that Zimbabwe will further develop its industry.

AK: What are your reflections from the summits you held in Harare and Bulawayo? What were the consistent issues that came through that were of interest to you as a corporate?

CUA: Was impressed by so many filmmakers and producers attending the summits and interest in the information shared, especially technical. There is need for upskilling and development of technical crews and scriptwriters required in the market.

AK: Do you feel that you can respond to the issues as a company?

CUA: Development of filmmakers is not our core business. Selling decoders for customers to enjoy our offering of channels is our business. Viewers enjoy watching local content and reflections of themselves, so indirectly, the more local content we have on our channels, the better for our viewers. We cannot commit to developing the film industry, but by commissioning and licensing Zimbabwean content, we are (again) indirectly supporting and growing the industry.

AK: What from your point of view as an organisation is your call and message to content creators?

CUA: Message to content creators: follow your passion and create content for the local market, regional market and global market. Watch DStv. Understand what content genres sell, see what stories sell. Often you’ll need to tailor your idea to a certain target market.

AK: At the summit you spoke about channels, can you elaborate on what the opportunity is for producers in other words?

CUA: Opportunity to create and support local channels. The business of buying and selling content (and the) difference between commissioned and licensed content. Commissioned is when a channel pays a producer to produce the content. The channel then owns the rights to that content. Licensing is when a producer gives the content to a channel for use over a certain period of time for a negotiated fee. The producer still owns the rights to the content and can sell the content to other channels. There are exclusive and non-exclusive deals. Non-exclusive means that various channels can license the same content.
AK: How can a content producer/s monetise a channel, supposing they managed to have enough content to run a channel? What will this represent in financial terms? I mean the actual total investment?

CUA: Don’t wait for a film commission. Make documentaries, local reality shows, and corporate videos. Filmmaking is a craft that only gets better with practice. A good tip for independent producers is to try and fund programmes through advertising. It’s called advertisers funded programming (AFPs). Then you go to a channel so you can secure a broadcast partner for your production and advertiser. There are also international channels that produce, commission or license local content. This includes many of our news channels, as well as lifestyle channels, including BBC Lifestyle and the Travel channel, MTV, BET, Trace, as well as the regional MNET channel Zambezi Magic.

AK: How do content producers access those you have mentioned?

CUA: Access is done via websites. Usually there would be a submissions tab or contact address. For MNET channels, go to: submissions@mnetcorporate.co.za. Then click on the channel you would like to submit a proposal to.

AK: How do you view the entry of Kwesé on the market?

CUA: I would suggest you ask Liz (Dziva, Dstv spokesperson) about questions relating to Kwesé. I don’t know enough about the Zimbabwean market.

AK: Okay, but they are on the African market.

CUA: What is your publication?

AK: Zimbabwe Independent. Is there a reason you asked?

CUA: Yes. I need to report back to corporate on any interviews. Liz is spokesperson for Zimbabwe, so I may refer some Zimbabwean market and business-related questions to her. I am happy to speak on content.

AK: Describe Zimbabwe as a market from where you stand?

CUA: Zimbabwe as a market: exciting, untapped potential, lots of stories waiting to be told.

AK: What does the future hold in terms of Zimbabwean content for your requirements?

CUA: There is potential for Zimbabweans to launch their own local TV channels, as many have done in other countries in the region.

AK: What is the situation in South Africa in terms of content producers? Is there content that was commissioned in South Africa that you have licensed internationally?

CUA: There are so many more content producers in South Africa, so there is a lot of competition for “airtime” across local free-to-air (FTA) and pay TV channels. Producers need to be entrepreneurial and find ways of producing content to license to broadcasters. It’s always easier to get a commission if you have already licensed your content to a respective broadcaster.

AK: Did you achieve what you set out to achieve with the summits?

CUA: Yes. It was a great opportunity to meet the Zimbabwean press and filmmakers, especially at a time of renewed hope and optimism in the country.

AK: What was your objective?

CUA: To showcase the content we carry on our linear and non-linear platforms, including VOD (Video on Demand) and DStv Now and to engage with local content producers. Zimbabwean content producers are perhaps steadily debunking the myth of mediocrity by managing to place their work with the transnational media corporate. The future appears bright as DStv has clearly declared open season on the digital satellite networks’ charm offensive to content producers and possibly subscribers by extension.

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