London — Mark Lewis, CEO, Bravig Media is convinced that Africa’s Free-To-Air broadcasters are coming out of the post Covid-19 downturn and are moving from being just reactive to developing new content ideas. Russell Southwood spoke to him about launching a new Free-To-Air streaming channel Sportshaka and his work with Free-To-Air broadcasters.
Mark Lewis launched Bravig Media in 2011 to sell Africa-specific content to the continent, particularly local language content: “We did a deal with SABC to deliver volume, family entertainment to family-focused channels and we had a big Saturday night slot.”
This led them to distribute content into a variety of different African countries with a lot of light entertainment and some telenovelas: “The strategy has always been to assist broadcasters to monetize their content.” After consulting for Optima Sports, Lewis could see the potential for sports rights content: “We were looking to do innovative deals with mobile operators and we could do bite-size chunks for new digital broadcasters.”
“As our focus became more on digital players, OTT and people like Kwese, we thought that there was a need for a different type of distribution platform for mobile entertainment, something that allowed them – because they are fundamentally tech companies – to acquire an audience, using the data they have.”
The vehicle for doing this is Sportshaka, which is a rights agency to acquire and distribute content, an app to stream some of the content acquired and a way of working with Free-To-Air broadcasters to help them get advertisers and sponsors.
“The content we’ve been acquiring includes Hausa wrestling, Kenyan boxing and Ethiopian athletics and all the international content to go with it. We want these local sports to appear on a parity with their international equivalents. We package this for both mobile consumption and Free-To-Air broadcasters.”
“As an example, we’ve been working with Cameroon’s Government national broadcaster CRTV, looking at the potential for marketing female-led leagues to Africa and the rest of the world. We’re also doing the thing in Ghana, working with Max TV and a local boxing federation.”
One of the new tools it is piloting with broadcasters is a couple of proprietary pieces of software that can measure audiences and the times of watching: “With the impact of Covid, people have been working longer hours and we have been looking at ways of increasing audiences with sports highlights.”
Alongside this distribution work, Sportshaka is being launched as an app on streamer platforms and with mobile operators: “It is dedicated to emerging, heritage and under-represented African sports.”
It has a relationship with Star Times’ ON platform to carry its short-form content across 15 African countries. In terms of mobile operators, he is in the last stages of negotiation with Zantel and a version will appear on Airtel. It will be launching the app in 5-6 territories and is working with a large Chinese tech company to deliver a web version of the app.
“What’s changing is the nature of partnerships that Free-To-Air broadcasters are managing. Their relationships with brands have to be deeper and more analytical and they need to partner with mobile operators and gaming organizations.”
“Typically, in the past, Free-To-Air broadcasters were reactive. Now they are much more active and new ideas are coming in. There’s a lot more collaboration, especially across borders and we see it as the way forward.”
“There is a new sustainability occurring in local sports on the continent. Local stars are being created who have as much say as international stars. This is new and exciting. It’s allowing a generation of young African sports entrepreneurs to build themselves in the shadow of these young players.”
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