Media: Africa travel channel debuts

Southern Africa Direct, a free-to-air channel promoting a number of countries in the region to consumers, will launch on the Sky channel later this month.

Pierre van der Hoven, chief executive of the channel, which is privately funded, said the UK is one of the world's most important target markets for travel, but that Africa attracts only 4% of its overseas travellers.

'In the UK, 98% of the media coverage relating to Africa is negative. This channel will help redress that; it is about telling a positive story of Africa,' he said.

Programming for the channel, which will sit in the lifestyle section of Sky's electronic programme guide, is to be commissioned from 25 countries in sub-equatorial Southern Africa. These will include Zambia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Malawi.

Content will be based on three strands: lifestyle and culture, travel and tourism, and commerce.

Southern Africa Direct has hired Interbrand to create branding and idents to support the launch. The channel will carry advertising, with Media Icon having been appointed to handle its media sales in the UK.

The Southern Africa region will also be promoted via a dedicated website, which will include a live Sky feed as well as links to 'affordable travel products'.

Destination programming is one of the fastest growing digital TV channel categories. Sky has had considerable success with its Sky Travel channel, which showcases holiday destinations and package deals. Elsewhere, several travel agents, including Thomas Cook, have launched branded channels as a direct-selling tool.

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