How Vivendi and Canal + are attacking the African market

How Vivendi and Canal + are attacking the African market

The group led by Vincent Bolloré intends to create at least 50 performance venues on the continent, deploy optical fiber and continue to establish itself in the DTT market.

The Vivendi group opened the first Canal Olympia concert hall in Cameroon in June

Vincent Bolloré wants to ride the digital wave that is flooding the African continent. For several months, Vivendi and Canal + have been increasing the number of projects aimed at a growing and increasingly connected middle class. The most recent is pay television. Since the start of the year, the encrypted channel has been offering offers available on digital terrestrial television (TNT) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa and Lubumbashi) and in Congo Brazzaville (Pointe-Noire). And in 2017, Canal + is targeting Côte d’Ivoire. “DTT allows us to seek out less fortunate customers with subscription rates of 4,000 CFA francs (around 6 euros) for 30 channels,” specifies David Mignot, Managing Director of Canal + Africa. It is a transitional technology pending the rise of ADSL, optical fiber, 4G and 5G ”.

And Canal + intends to accelerate this transition. When Vincent Bolloré took over the channel in 2015, he asked his teams to promote synergies between Vivendi and Canal +. One of these mergers aims to build a fiber optic network in sub-Saharan Africa. The idea is to deploy the fiber overhead, along the electricity poles. A technique considered less expensive than digging trenches to bury the fiber in the ground. The Breton industrialist relies in particular on the success of GVT, the former Vivendi subsidiary sold at a high price to the Spanish group Telefonica (7.5 billion euros) in 2015 and known for having built a high-speed network quality in Brazil. But after having built a 60 km network around Cotonou (Benin), the project has been on standby since May due to political alternation. “We hope to quickly relaunch this project for the future,” indicates David Mignot. There is no reason why what could have been done in Brazil should not be done in Africa ”.

2.5 million active subscribers in Africa

Another project launched since the takeover of Vincent Bolloré: the construction of 50 to 100 cinemas and shows in sub-Saharan Africa in the coming years. The first opened in June in Yaoundé (Cameroon) and others should be launched in Niamey (Niger), Conakry (Guinea) or Lomé (Togo) in 2017. Accra (Ghana) and especially Lagos (Nigeria), the largest city on the continent with its 22 million inhabitants should also have one by 2020. This project called Canal Olympia, is dedicated to the screening of films, but also to the organization of concerts by African artists and foreigners, as well as the reception of stand-up comedians. “Each room must make it possible to detect local talents, to make them known and thus promote African culture”, continues David Mignot.

Canal +, which also launched in October 2014 the 100% African entertainment channel, A +, has made the continent since 2011 a major axis of its international development. The branch of the group in charge of Africa has thus grown in five years from 300 to 1,200 employees. “In 2011, we had 400,000 subscribers in Africa,” explains David Mignot. Today we are present in more than 25 countries and we will reach 2.5 million active subscribers by the end of the year ”. This success can be explained in particular by the multiplication of offers offered by Canal. The channel, for example, has just signed broadcasting agreements with Walt Disney and the Ivorian Football Federation.

Canal + is not, however, the only audiovisual group to position itself on the African market. On TNT for example, several behemoths in the sector such as the Chinese StarTimes (Rwanda, Burundi, Guinea Conakry) or the South African Multichoice-DSTV (English-speaking countries) have also won calls for tenders. Vincent Bolloré’s group and StartTimes are currently competing in Côte d’Ivoire as part of a call for tenders.