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New sitcoms make Africans laugh and earn profits
That leaves the prospect of how to fund it all. There’s no question the viewers are there, but for the moment African TV channels aren’t what they might one day become.
“TV doesn’t really have money to buy,” says Diallo-Glez, who instead seeks local sponsors to buy up the content and sandwich it with their adverts. Banks, mobile phone companies and the national lottery have done this with a glut of Burkinabe sitcoms.
Burkina Faso also attracts a great deal of donor funding. The French-language organization the Francophonie last year funded more sitcoms from Burkina Faso than anywhere else. Donors gave Boubakar Diallo 95,000 euros for his village-based sitcom, "Série Noire à Koulbi," which took 75 days to film and employed 50 people.
A more sustainable future lies in developing cable channels and selling to some of Africa’s 100 million-strong diaspora. Already Ivory Coast’s Studio 225, which produced "La Cour Commune," is selling its DVDs solely to Europe for 15 euros apiece in a bid to raise sales and duck the impact of piracy that snatches hold of Africa’s streets.
Plus if Nigeria’s success at making home movies is anything to go by, Burkina Faso has a powerful big sister to follow. Its $450 million “Nollywood” industry produces more than 2,000 videos a year and has an Internet download site to serve the diaspora.
“In the U.S., Nollywood films have become a multi-million dollar industry as immigrants and other fans snatch them up,” says Vijay Mahajan, a marketing professor at the University of Texas. “Nollywood is the big show in Africa, but it is still at a very early stage. It will grow if they sit down and think about it seriously. It can learn a lot from Bollywood.”
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