Sherlock and Luther lead British TV invasion of Sub-Saharan Africa

The region has become one of the fastest growing buyers of UK-produced televisino programmes

Adam Sherwin
Media Correspondent
Thursday 01 October 2015 00:17
High-end dramas like the BBC's Sherlock perform well with African audiences
High-end dramas like the BBC's Sherlock perform well with African audiences

Sherlock and Luther are leading a British television invasion of Sub-Saharan Africa with the region becoming one of the fastest growing buyers of UK-produced television programmes.

Research from the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (Pact) showed that exports to South Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa grew by over a third (35%) in the past year.

The UK Television Exports Survey 2014/15, using figures from BBC Worldwide and ITV Studios Global Entertainment, includes DVD sales, digital and format rights. Sales of programmes alone grew by 21% from £8.4million to £10.2million.

A large number of new cable and satellite channels have launched in Sub-Saharan Africa in the past few years, boosted by an upgrade to its electricity grid, contributing to the sales rise.

High-end drama, including the BBC’s detective duo of Sherlock and Luther perform well with African audiences. Natural history, including David Attenborough’s Africa series, is proving popular along with the children’s shows Charlie and Lola and 3rd and Bird.

Joel Churcher, Vice President for Africa, BBC Worldwide, said: “Having a strong, black lead character in a drama like Luther helps appeal to African audiences. The CBeebies educational output is very popular with families. There is a strong nostalgia pull for BBC comedies like Absolutely Fabulous and My Family. Africa is also the only continent to take the British Strictly show, they know our celebrities and dancers.”

Mr Churcher said the rise in UK programme sales was partly due to new web-based platforms launching in Africa. ITV recently launched its first pan-African drama and entertainment channel, ITV Choice, on the DStv digital satellite service.

Mexico saw the largest increase in UK sales year-on-year with a 46% increase but the value of sales was smaller than the African contribution.

British television sales to Russia crashed by 49%. Pact ascribed this to recent sanctions on advertising on cable and satellite channels.

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Overall, the estimated total revenue from the international sales of UK TV programmes and associated activities in 2014/15 was £1,207m, a 0.6% decrease on the previous year.

Dawn McCarthy-Simpson, Director of International at Pact, said: “Africa has been a key focus for Pact in the past year and it’s good to see that UK producers are taking advantage of the improved infrastructure across the continent. The world still loves UK TV programmes but it remains a competitive market. Emerging countries and digital rights could be key to future growth.”

The hits

Africa: Sir David Attenborough’s 2013 BBC series crossing the Kalahari desert and the Congo basin to investigate Africa’s wild habitats is an education even for a local audience.

Luther: Idris Elba’s maverick detective is bringing gritty British crime stories and high production values to African viewers.

Charlie and Lola: From CBeebies to Senegal, the global appeal of the animated series based on the popular children’s picture books about two siblings knows no bounds.

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