Wednesday, March 30, 2016

BBC Worldwide pins down specific South African TV production capacity as it directly invests in Rapid Blue with plans to ramp up its local TV programming.

The BBC is directly investing in South Africa's TV production capacity with a sizeable contribution in the production company Rapid Blue although the BBC's commercial arm says it doesn't want to say how much.

The BBC's financial investment in a local TV production house is a vote of confidence for South Africa's growing TV and film industry, hamstrung by a lack of financial support and expertise, and the latest investment follows after BBC Worldwide opened a Johannesburg office in January 2015 headed up by Joel Churcher.

The move signals not only the BBC's growing recognition of the increasing value and accelerated market expansion of Africa's TV industry and local pay-TV content production, but also that BBC Worldwide intends to ramp up the programming hours of television produced from inside South Africa.

Rapid Blue, established in 1993 has already produced several shows for various BBC Worldwide channels over the past few years like BBC Entertainment and BBC Lifestyle like Come Dine with Me SA and The Great South African Bake Off.

While now in partnership with BBC Worldwide that will see Rapid Blue produce more shows for the BBC specifically, the production company will also continue to produce shows for other channels as it has been.

Rapid Blue has done several noteworthy TV productions for a gamut of channels available in South Africa, ranging from The X Factor SA (SABC1), SA's Got Talent (SABC2 and, Dragon's Den (Mzansi Magic), Strictly Come Dancing (SABC3), The Weakest Link (SABC3) and Pawn Stars SA for A+E Networks UK's History channel and Four Weddings SA for Lifetime on DStv.

As part of the long-term strategic partnership, veteran producer Duncan Irvine will continue as CEO of Rapid Blue and veteran producer Kee-Leen Irvine will remain as managing director, while staff will continue to be employees of Rapid Blue that will continue to be run by its existing senior management team.

In other parts of the world BBC Worldwide fully-owns production bases in countries like the USA, France, India and the Nordics and has a joint venture with All3Media in Germany with Tower Productions and an entertainment format production partnership with FremantleMedia in Australia.

The deal with a local production company will make it cheaper and easier for the BBC to produce content for and in South Africa for its various channels like BBC Brit, BBC First, BBC Earth, BBC Lifestyle and Cbeebies.

BBC Worldwide didn't want to disclose the nature of the investment and what it is when asked, but through its South African PR agency shared background points saying how the agreement is structured and how much money is invested are "commercially confidential".

About why it chose to partner with an existing production company instead of setting up its own fully-owned unit, BBC Worldwide says "we assessed all the routes available to us and we were fortunate enough to find the perfect partner for us in Rapid Blue, whom we've worked with successfully in the past, and who already produce a number of BBC Worldwide formats locally".

BBC Worldwide says it wants to expand in the Africa and South Africa region and "meet the growing demand for high-end, compelling and relevant local content for the African market, in addition to taking African content to the world".

"The agreement will enable us to provide content solutions for broadcasters across the continent," says Grant Welland, BBC Worldwide's executive vice president for the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMA) region.

Duncan Irvine, in the prepared statement says Rapid Blue will "continue to grow and develop our staff and the creative and production teams who work with us" with the production company that wants to develop a slate of local drama series with some already picked up for the 2016 season.