Africa Channel Explores Digital Dawn

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A new digital-television entertainment service featuring programming from Africa will launch on several Cox Communications Inc. systems in September.

Independent service The Africa Channel -- financed by such National Basketball Association players as Dikembe Mutombo and Theo Ratliff -- will air music, movies, reality and news and information programming produced from the continent, according to CEO James Makawa.

The network has already reached a digital-carriage deal with Cox, and it will bow on the MSO’s New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., systems, president Jacob Arback said. He added that the Los Angeles-based network is in carriage negotiations with other MSOs and satellite distributors, and it expects to be in 15 million homes by the beginning of 2007.

“We anticipate that The Africa Channel will provide our Cox Digital Cable customers with a new diverse destination on the lineup that entertains and informs,” Cox senior vice president of programming Bob Wilson said in a prepared statement.

The Africa Channel will launch with more than 1,200 hours of original and first-run English-language programming, including news and information, travel, lifestyle, music, feature films, soap, talk, reality and special events. The network will tap into programming from South African Broadcasting Corp. and other African-based production companies.

Arback would not reveal the network’s rate card, but he did say that it will offer a video-on-demand component to complement the linear channel.

For more on The Africa Channel, please see R. Thomas Umstead’s story on page 28 of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.

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