DISCOP Johannesburg 2017 had an air of business about it this year. With an increased focus on meetings and networking, the event was somehow more focused and serious than in previous editions, less glitz and glamour – but definitely more deal-making and demand.
With over 1 500 delegates in attendance (the highest so far) and a condensed layout, buyers and sellers seemed more intent on one-to-one meetings, particularly around African content.
In fact, DISCOP Johannesburg 2017 saw a 50 per cent jump in the number companies selling content “Made In Africa” in comparison to last year, with many companies from the continent (IROKO_AFOREVO_RTI_DIFFA ) confirming significant deals.
In previous years DISCOP Johannesburg has boasted cocktail lounges, informal networking spaces, and a host of rooms dedicated to side-bar programmes. This year, all elements were hosted within the main exhibition floor of the Sandton Convention Centre, giving the event a focused and more streamlined feeling.
An expanded space for smaller meeting tables meant more opportunities for smaller players to get maximum benefit from the event. Talking to many attendees, the atmosphere at this year’s event was definitely one of seriousness and intent.
Over the past two years, DISCOP has been making a concerted effort to reach out to independent producers, offering more affordable ticketing and meeting table opportunities so that the event is not just a showcase for the major international players. This outreach seems to be paying off, as this year there were over 300 independent African producers in attendance, all intent on selling their content.
As Sheryl Navarro, DISCOP’s head of Customers Relations explains further, “During these three days, all signs pointed to intensifying competition between distribution platforms hungry for content. For the first time, sellers had more leverage and ended up with better deals. Competition is also growing between global entertainment brands who dominated the marketplace until now, and homegrown content rapidly catching up on quality and cross-border potential.”
While the major international brands were all there this year with massive and impressive stands, somehow it was the producers who were the stars of the show. With focuses on technology, co-productions, and building bridges across Africa, independent producers and international distributors alike all realise that central to the future of the industry is quality and accessible content.
Patrick Zuchowicki, founder of DISCOP Markets puts it this way, “Until recently, the Sub-Saharan African entertainment content marketplace was dominated by one or two players, and thus negatively impacted by minimal income opportunities and chronic lack of funding for independent producers. Today, competition is intensifying, with massive investments in internet connectivity, a steady migration to digital terrestrial television and significant smartphone adoption, mobile, digital and online content distribution platforms are challenging the dominance of previously dominant operators.”
To this end, various pitching opportunities included the Mahala.tv Pitch Marathon, as well as the competition from Animation South Africa (ASA), that earlier this month partnered with Turner, the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, Animation Magazine and others to host the first ever Animation Lounge at DISCOP Africa’s Johannesburg event.
The Mahala.tv Theatre had dozens of delegates buzzing with its comprehensive digital solution for producers to distribute, monetise, and fund content, while other major players such as Cote Ouest are putting a focus building bridges across Africa through multi-language co-productions. These initiatives see opportunities for producers expanding exponentially, with examples including the partnership between French production and distribution group Lagardère Studios is partnering with South Africa’s Urban Brew Studios to produce a telenovela that will be in both French and English.
Just this month, Canal Plus International secured Agent, a glitzy series set in the glamorous world of African soccer, a co-production with Mauritius’ Cinebar Studios and Collective Dream Studios, it features cast and crew from Mauritius, South Africa, Nigeria, the U.K. and France—a clear sign of the show’s ambitions to appeal to both English- and French-speaking markets.
DISCOP has also shown its ability to stay relevant and on top of industry trends with an increased focus this year on technology; from augmented and virtual reality to a strong focus on digital, OTT and VOD platforms, the make up of the exhibitors and programming is evolving with the times.
Additionally, DISCOP has identified other areas of growth within the industry, specifically that of synch deals, licensing, and music composition for content. In partnership with East Africa’s ONGEA! AFRICA, this year saw the launch of DISCORE – what will become a stand-alone programme aimed at bridging the gap between the music and entertainment sectors.
The press conference and panel for DISCORE took place on Friday afternoon, in previous years this would have meant empty seats, however, this year saw the exhibition floor full until late on Friday, and the DISCORE Panel discussion was filled to capacity with an engaged and very enthusiastic audience, many from the music industry who had never previously attended a DISCOP event.
The feedback on the launch of DISCORE was overwhelmingly positive and it appears that going forward this will be one of the highlights of the expanded DISCOP programme that will also see the launch of DISCOMICS aimed at the animation and video game industries.
The collaborative and open platform creates the ideal space to build bridges both economically and culturally. Even in the age of technology, there is something very powerful in being able to sit down face-to-face with colleagues from across Africa and the world. This kind of personal discussion is what leads to partnerships between events like the Zanzibar International Film Festival and the Cape Town International Film Market and Festival, the details of which will be announced soon.
DISCOP Johannesburg was an exhausting and exciting three days for anyone serious about content in Africa. The expansion of DISCOP Markets into East Africa, with DISCOP Zanzibar taking place from 11 to 13 July 2018, and DISCOP Lagos scheduled for 2018, means that these face-to-face powerful opportunities will now be accessible to even more producers and creatives than before – and that can only be a positive thing.