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The French giant Canal + buys Rwanda’s first streaming service on request

The French giant Canal + buys Rwanda’s first streaming service on request

France’s Canal + Group has announced the acquisition of Rwanda’s first digital streaming platform, ZACU TV, as it consolidates its position in East Africa. Following recent investments in film production in West Africa, this latest move is further proof that the French media giant is recognizing the latent potential of independent African film production as a magnet for the continent’s growing audience on demand.

The decision to branch out to local content creation follows a path already trodden by Canal + subsidiaries in Nigeria and Ivory Coast.

Following the successful acquisition of Nigeria’s ROK Studios, which has since excelled in a saturated Nollywood market, this latest venture is expected to engage publicly with Rwanda’s fast-growing audiovisual sector by improving production quality and building on the success of previously home-made sitcoms. .

Expanding across Africa

Canal + already has an established footprint in Africa. The media conglomerate has 23.7 million subscribers worldwide, and already caters to audiences across both Francophone and English-speaking West Africa. The content has been available via Rwandan terrestrial TV for a decade and received a dedicated channel, Canal + Rwanda, in 2020.

ZACU was founded in 2017 and has quickly risen to become one of East Africa’s leading providers of network streaming. Subscribers can access 700 hours of video content on demand, and for $ 30 a year, they can stream shows in high definition, without commercials or even offline.

“I am very excited to continue the journey with Canal + Group,” said ZACU CEO Wilson Misago. “Rwanda has a huge talent … it’s time to bring Rwanda content to the world!”

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Streaming content for a digital age

The acquisition of ZACU gives Canal + an opportunity to break the ties to TV broadcasting and take advantage of Rwanda’s high internet connection rates. In 2019, only 19% of Rwandan households owned a television set, which means that the country’s 9.37 million mobile phone users present a far more viable market for digital content producers.

With 4G coverage in major cities and a high level of broadband internet penetration, Rwandan subscribers have to date been able to stream low quality content – ZACU TV has a minimum requirement of 150 kilobytes / second to watch their shows. Higher-value productions, often designed for larger screens with strong Internet connections, can fall flat or fall victim to digital piracy, which consumes an estimated 50-75% of the country’s creative revenue, according to a UNESCO report on the African film industry.

Strong long-term prospects

Canal + and ZACU will benefit from government support for the country’s nascent film industry. A five-year plan for the promotion of cultural and creative industries was announced in 2016 and has introduced tax breaks on production equipment and other economic incentives for a sector considered crucial to Rwanda’s development as an international tourist destination.

If this venture is as successful as Canal + investments in West Africa, it is likely that Rwanda’s film industry will continue to expand with the 1,000 direct and 6,000 indirect jobs it has created since 1994, while delivering ever higher quality content. on a national and regional scale.

Industry leaders will hope that “Hillywood” can take its place along with Nollywood at the forefront of a growing continental market, and fulfill Rwanda Film Festival founder Eric Kabera’s dream of “taking Hollywood to the thousand hills of Rwanda”.

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