French’s Canal+ Group acquires Rwandan studio Zacu TV

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  • Since its inception in 2017, ZACU has made rapid strides toward being one of the most successful internet streaming service providers in East Africa
  • 19% of Rwandan households owned a TV in 2019, therefore the country’s 9.37 million mobile phone users make a considerably more viable business for digital content creators
  • Canal + already serves consumers in both Anglophone and Francophone West Africa, and it already has 23.7 million members all over the world

As part of its strategy to further consolidate its position in East Africa, the French company Canal+ Group has announced that it will be purchasing ZACU TV, Rwanda’s first digital streaming platform.

After recent forays into film production in West Africa, this current endeavor indicates that the French media behemoth recognizes the untapped potential of independent film production in Africa as an attraction for the growing on-demand viewership across the continent.

The decision to expand into local content creation is similar to that taken by Canal+ subsidiaries in Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, both of which have already travelled this path.

After the successful acquisition of Nigeria’s ROK Studios, which has since differentiated itself in the increasingly competitive Nollywood market, it is anticipated that this most recent venture will drive public engagement with Rwanda’s rapidly growing audiovisual sector by improving the quality of production and building upon the success of previously produced locally produced sitcoms.

Fabrice Faux, the Chief Content Officer of CANAL+INTERNATIONAL, made the following declaration: “Our hearts are filled with joy as we officially welcome ZACU entertainment and all of its teams to the Group.

There are many resources available in Rwanda for the production of audiovisual material in a variety of languages. In the same vein as our commitment in French-speaking Africa and, more recently, in Ethiopia,

This acquisition represents not only our desire to associate the best creative skills with our growth in Africa and internationally, but also our desire to generate material that our subscribers would praise at the highest quality imaginable.”

French’s Canal+ Group acquires Rwandan studio Zacu TV. [Photo/kiny.taarifa.rw]

Spreading across the entirety of Africa

Canal+ already has a well-established presence across the African continent. The media giant already serves consumers in both Anglophone and Francophone West Africa, and it already has 23.7 million members all over the world. Its programming has been shown on terrestrial television in Rwanda for the past ten years, and in 2020, the country received its own dedicated channel, which is known as Canal+ Rwanda.

Since its inception in 2017, ZACU has made rapid strides toward being one of the most successful internet streaming service providers in East Africa. A total of 700 hours of video content is available on-demand for subscribers, and for an additional S$30 per year, users may stream their favorite shows in high definition, ad-free, or even download them to watch offline.

Wilson Misago, CEO of ZACU, expressed his excitement at the prospect of continuing their adventure with Canal+ Group. “Rwanda has an incredible amount of talent… It’s time to show the rest of the world what we can do here in Rwanda!

Streaming content designed for the modern era

The purchase of ZACU provides Canal+ with the ability to break free from the constraints of traditional television transmission and capitalize on the extraordinary internet connectivity rates found in Rwanda. There was just 19 per cent of households in Rwanda that owned a television set in 2019, which means that the country’s 9.37 million mobile phone users create a much more viable business for digital content creators.

To this day, Rwandan subscribers have been able to stream content of low quality; ZACU TV boasts a minimum requirement of 150 kilobytes/second in order to watch its shows. With widespread 4G coverage and significant broadband internet penetration, Rwanda has been able to achieve this status.

According to a UNESCO report on the African film industry, higher-value productions, which are often meant for larger screens and robust internet connections may fail or fall victim to digital piracy. According to the report, digital piracy consumes an estimated 50–75 per cent of creative revenues in the country.

Strong expectations for the foreseeable future

Both ZACU and Canal+ will come out ahead thanks to the government’s investment in the country’s fledgling film sector. A five-year plan for the promotion of cultural and creative industries was announced in 2016, and as part of that plan, tax breaks on production equipment and other financial incentives were introduced for a sector that is considered crucial to the development of Rwanda as an international tourist destination.

It is likely that Rwanda’s film industry will continue to expand upon the 1,000 direct and 6,000 indirect jobs that it has created since 1994, while also delivering increasingly high-quality content on a national and regional scale if this venture enjoys the same level of success as the investments that Canal+ has made in West Africa.

In 2016, it was revealed that there will be a plan in place to promote creative and cultural industries over the course of the next five years.

Industry leaders hope that “Hillywood” can take its position alongside Nollywood at the forefront of a growing continental market. This would fulfil the aim of Eric Kabera, creator of the Rwanda Film Festival, to “transport Hollywood to the thousand hills of Rwanda”.

Read: A Peek into Africa’s digital economy future

Maingi Gichuku is passionate about helping African businesses grow by offering technology solutions. With a BSC in Zoology and biochemistry, Gichuku yearns for an Africa that can find solutions to its challenges. My drive is to see an economically dynamic Africa and embrace its populations by creating opportunities cutting across the social and economic strata.

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