The first town hall was well attended and throughout we had around 400 Founder Members present.
The first part of the session was used to explain that WildEarth at various stages has been funded by either investors putting money in, or through licensing the rights to broadcast certain programs to TV networks. Since late 2014 this licensing revenue was provided through ‘safariLIVE’ and mainly from National Geographic Wild. In 2018 and 2019, the SABC (South Africa) and CGTN (China) provided some additional license fees.
From comments made, it seems that there is quite some confusion between licensing and sponsorship, with many thinking National Geographic ‘sponsored’ us. However, licensing a program is very different from sponsoring a company or program. When paying for a license a network purchases certain rights with regard to a program, e.g. to broadcast it on television in the USA, and this is what NatGeo Wild did. Sponsorship is when a company provides money (or goods) in return for having its name associated with a certain program. Advertising is again different as it is money (or goods) received in direct return for promoting one or more of products.
Those of you who’ve been with us from the start of safariLIVE  will have seen that at various times we have tried to make night broadcasts work by using infra-red cameras and thermal imaging. The reason we spent so much effort on this is that networks who license our programs will not pay significant sums for programs they cannot broadcast in prime-time (19 – 22 PM). And during this prime-time in both the major TV markets – the UK and the US East Coast – it is almost always night in Africa. The reality is that TV audiences do not want to see black-and-white, they expect to see the beauty of Africa in daylight and full colour. And, given the timezones, it is simply not possible for us to deliver this LIVE to those two markets.
Therefore, networks like NatGeo Wild needed to program us outside of prime-time in order to get daylight broadcasts. This reduced their income from the shows, and thus what they could afford to pay to us. Despite the best efforts from both sides, the economics simply did not and won’t work. (A further challenge is that night time is hunting time, and this is also not what the majority of the audience wants to see.)
While we can broadcast LIVE safaris in daylight to countries in Africa (part of the year) and East Asia, there is much less money available for licensing in those countries and without license revenue, the US and UK, safariLIVE in its current form is simply not viable.
However, on the plus side, there is a massive and growing interest in LIVE wildlife content around the globe, including the UK and US, and if WildEarth can find a way to deliver daylight wildlife content, we are likely to be able to license this in these countries. Over the past 5 years, WildEarth has built a strong reputation and is seen as a reliable company that can produce high-quality LIVE wildlife content at a very reasonable price, and various networks and platforms have expressed strong interest. But, … only if we can provide daylight content to them in their prime-time. Therefore, in other to thrive WildEarth will need to grow beyond daily safaris from Africa, so we can deliver on those expectations. It is very important to note that this will not mean that we will stop our daily safaris:
We will continue to broadcast daily safaris, and will do so from Djuma!
Graham will speak more about changes we are making in the coming weeks on Thursday at 19:00 CAT (immediately following the Sunset safari; noon EST, 9 AM PST, 17:00 GMT). Amongst other things, he will explain how we will transition from referring to the safaris as safariLIVE to WildEarth, including a change in the hashtag, and that, aside from Jamie, you will still be seeing your favourite guides on your screens.
So tune in on Thursday to hear more about all this!