Thursday, April 18, 2013
Yves Bollanga of Cameroon -Televising African Home Entertainment in the U.S.
By Farai Gundan @FaraiToday
Sub-Saharan Africans are quietly but steadfastly establishing themselves as one of the most dynamic and entrepreneurial groups in the U.S. According to Nielsen, they represent an estimated 4 million people earning between $45,000 and $75,000 a year. Their projected combined spending power is estimated at $300 billion. This is a fast growing ethnic group and US-based, Cameroonian born Yves Bollanga wants a piece of that pie, a big piece!
The former IBM engineer is building an ambitious family of television channels currently reaching over 21 million households and growing. He is at the vanguard of bridging the cultural gap amongst all the Black communities by bringing Afro-Caribbean content to mainstream America, one TV channel at a time. “There is an unfulfilled demand for Black content on TV in North America. Our vision is to produce and broadcast Afro-centric original content to as many devices and households as we possibly can.” explained Bollanga.
A serial media entrepreneur, Bollanga founded his first company AB ROLL, a video production house in Tours, France in 1995. In 1998, with his childhood friend, Constant Nemale (founder of Africa24, a 24/7 African News channel based in Paris, France), he created Telesud, the first Pan-African television channel currently available throughout Europe and Africa. In 2005, under Bollanga’s leadership, Telesud launched in the U.S on DISH, the second largest U.S satellite operator with over 14 million subscribers. In 2008, with his longtime Pakistani-American partner Shafquat Chaudhary, they formed Soundview Africa and launched Afrotainment Movies on DISH, a general entertainment channel broadcasting African movies (mainly Nollywood, the second largest movie industry in the world in terms of number of movies released), series, realities and talk shows. With Soundview Africa, Bollanga’s goal was to create a company whose core business is to edit, broadcast and distribute Afro-centric multi-platforms television channels. Afrotainment Movies quickly became the premier platform for watching Nollywood movies on TV in the U.S.
“Afrotainment was created to act as a cultural bridge amongst all the Black communities: Caribbean, Black American, Black Hispanic, mixed racial heritage or African immigrants,” commented Bollanga from Afrotainment’s 7,000 square feet, state-of-the-art, HD studio in Orlando, Florida. Afrotainment also operates out of a 32,000 square foot digital broadcast center in New York City in collaboration with Soundview Broadcasting, a leading distributor of Bollywood and South-East Asian content.
In 2009, the second channel, Afrotainment Music, launched on DISH as a 24/7 music channel showcasing popular African music genres. Afrotainment Music resonated with the younger generation quickly due to the high quality music videos from popular Afro-Caribbean artists. “We wanted to capture the young audience early with music content while they are still in college and make sure they remain loyal viewers once adults,” Bollanga said. In 2011 the third channel, Afrotainment Plus launched on cable via Optimum Cablevision in the nation’s largest concentration of African-American/Black: New York. Afrotainment’s fourth channel: TV9ja, launched on DISH the same year targeting the vibrant Nigerian community.
In 2012, the fifth channel, Afrotainment HD targeting mainstream Black America, launched on Roku, the leading streaming platform in the U.S with over 5 million customers. Afrotainment sixth nationwide channel, Africa Box Office(ABO), a 24/7 Afro-Caribbean movie channel launched the same year on DISH. Explaining the challenges of concluding carriage agreement in the U.S, Bollanga said “we presented our channels and strategy to the leading Multi-Service Operators in the U.S, only Charles Ergen and his dedicated executives and marketing team recognized early on the potential of the African market especially the up-selling opportunities and cross-over appeal to the 41 million African-Americans”.
The bullish investment moves show that Bollanga and his team are serious about capturing a large chunk of the Black TV market share in the US. They currently produces 55% of their HD content in-house and their catalog boasts over 1000 hours of HD content, 1500 Afro-Caribbean movies and over 40 different Afro-Caribbean TV series. Bollanga declined to disclose the amount that he invested in Afrotainment as its principal owner, but acknowledged his company has yet to generate profits. “Television is a capital intensive endeavor. It takes well over $10 to $20 million just to turn the switch on, assuming you have the broadcast infrastructure in place. However, what is important to us, is that the Afrotainment family of channels is bringing value to the greatly underserved African-American/Black communities we represent and serve in the U.S.”