Zuku looks to power up African content industry

Zuku is the entrant in African pay TV, taking on incumbent Multichoice with a service targeting customers in the East of the continent with its cable and satellite service.


Run by regional triple-play provider Wananchi, it has a budget of US$8 million to programme its channels and wants to acquire content with an African twist as well as commission locally-produced fare.


In terms of local production, the platform wants to actually fund a small number of Kenyan-originated programmes, which would be a break from the regular model whereby producers fully fund content and then shop it to prospective buyers.


“Commissioning is something that we are interested in – inserting ourselves into the production value-chain,” says Hannelie Bekker, MD, Wananchi Programming. “We have looked at the way that cable nets like AMC have grown, slowly, by finding the right show that has become a breakout hit and changed the sense of what that channel is.”


She adds: “There is a lot of money for development initiatives and interest from the industry – but we are not a public service broadcaster and want better content than that – content that is worth paying for.”


Zuku currently runs four channels. Acquisitions are handled by Bekker and Catherine Njari, who buys for its general entertainment and factual channel.


Documentary offering Zuku Life is focused on history, natural history, wildlife and crime docs presented in a stranded schedule with wildlife, for example, on everyday at 7pm and people and places at 8pm. It already has programming deals with BBC Worldwide, Off the Fence and World Wide Entertainment.


Zuku Afrika is African entertainment from around the world. African-sourced content is supplemented with relevant acquisitions, which so far have included Canadian scripted series Da Kink in My Hair (eOne) and Little Mosque (Westwind Pictures).


The sport channel, meanwhile, is packaged by Setanta in Dublin. For Zuku Movie, Zuku has output agreements for movies in the second pay window from Disney, NBC Universal, MGM and Warner Bros.


Kids, music, education and church themed channels will be the next to launch, Bekker says.

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