All posts by John Winfield

Africa 24 Media launches VoD platform

Independent pan-African 24-hour news and information channel Africa 24 Media has launched a factual VoD platform.

Yebo will offer stories from more than 30 African countries for free. Content includes shows, documentaries, shorts and features from across the continent that have been curated over the past 12 years by Africa 24 Media’s journalists.

Asif Sheikh

Africa 24 Media founder and CEO Asif Sheikh said: “For two decades I was away from home, studying and working in North America. While there, I constantly craved for news back home. Sadly, all we got at the time were stories of a continent ravaged by war, corruption and disease. Most of these stories were told by foreign journalists.

“When I came back, I found amazing stories that were not covered by the international press, and that gave me the inspiration to allow more of our people to tell these stories.”

Yebo is available as an Android app via the Google Play store. Any content downloaded on the app can be watched offline within a period of 30 days. Africa 24 Media is based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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MultiChoice backs coronavirus battle

Pay TV company MultiChoice Nigeria has pledged millions of naira as part of a commitment to support the federal government in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

John Ugbe

The firm has committed up to N400m to a salary fund to support creative professionals during the crisis.

In addition, MultiChoice is providing cash support of N200m to the federal government and N50m to Lagos state, and has donated 10,000 test kits to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

It has also committed N550m worth of inventory to airing public-service announcements on virus prevention tips in English, pidgin, Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa languages on more than 10 channels across its DStv and GOtv platforms.

Adewunmi Ogunsanya, chairman of MultiChoice Nigeria, said: “We are doing this because we recognise the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has on Nigerians and the economy. We hope our contributions to NCDC, the federal and state Governments, alongside other donations, will go a long way towards effective management of the outbreak.”

MultiChoice Nigeria CEO John Ugbe added: “The creative industry salary payment of up to N400m will offer a much-needed financial reprieve for producers, actors, and technical talent currently contracted to MultiChoice Nigeria, whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the pandemic.”

MultiChoice said the move was in line with its values as a responsible corporate organisation and leader in the media and creative sector whose aim is to support the authorities in fighting the pandemic and reducing its attendant impact on Nigeria’s economy.

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Ultimate Love winners revealed

Ultimate Love was won by the couple known as ‘Roksie’

The winners of the first season of reality show Ultimate Love have been revealed after the show’s early conclusion.

Rosie and Kachi, jointly known as Roksie, won the show, which was hosted by Nollywood actor Dakore Egbuson-Akande and creative director Oluwaseun Olaniyan.

It began with 16 contestants living together in a secluded venue for eight weeks while they get to know each other, forge relationships and complete challenges set out for them. They then decide whether they want to propose to their partner.

Rosie accepted Kachi’s proposal during the live finale on Sunday, which came sooner than scheduled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The pair will be given a sponsored traditional wedding and a dream home if they get married, in addition to the cash prize they automatically receive for winning the show.

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DStv, GOtv expand content offerings

MultiChoice-owned pay TV platforms DStv and GOtv have re-organised their content offerings to help subscribers stay up to date with information regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

Africanews will now be available on GOtv Max and Plus, while educational channels Da Vinci and Mindset and kids’ entertainment net Cartoon Network  will be on DStv Access until the end of May to help engage young viewers.

Nickelodeon (Channel 305) has also been opened up to DStv Compact, Family and Access subscribers until April 14.

In addition, library sports content is being made more widely available. Select 4 will be opened to compact customers to re-live English Premier League football, while Select 5 will showcase past WWE content.

MultiChoice Group CEO Calvo Mawela said: “We have been in constant communication with health authorities such as the World Health Organisation and we will be rolling out Africa-wide public service announcements on Covid-19. It is important that all of us take heed of the announcements and advice from trusted experts so that we can look after our own health and that of our loved ones.

“In light of the disruptions to the school year in some markets, we are also working to provide access to the best available educational content, to help keep young minds stimulated and engaged.”

MultiChoice has also moved to reassure its staff during the pandemic. “We are taking great care for our staff during this time and have encouraged those that are able to work from home to do so,” said Mawela.

“In light of this, we have advised our customers that there may be a delay in our ability to attend to customer queries. However, we have a number of self-service and online platforms available, and we will do our best to sort out any issues they may have, timeously.”

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StarTimes streams channels for free

Pay TV operator StarTimes is offering more than 150 local and international channels for free via its StarTimes ON streaming platform.

This move is a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has resulted in huge numbers of people around the world staying at home.

The content includes top TV series, local films, educational documentaries and children’s programmes across more than 150 live channels, as well as more than 20,000 hours of library programming on-demand.

Ariel Wang, operations director at StarTimes ON, said: “StarTimes will keep contributing to making people safe during this special time. Thus we opened the free access to channels and further upgraded StarTimes ON coding technology to decrease again the broadband traffic, allowing users to spend even less data and enjoy more content while using our app, and decreasing the pressure on internet and telecom infrastructures.

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Ultimate Love to conclude early

Pay TV operator MultiChoice has decided to cut short reality show Ultimate Love because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The show began airing on February 9 and had been due to run for eight weeks, but will now come to an end this Sunday. Today is the last day viewers can vote on the series.

MultiChoice said: “While we know the show has garnered appreciable fans and viewers across Africa, it has become pertinent for us to join the ongoing efforts by the government and global public health officials to flatten the curve against the coronavirus.”

The concluding part of the show will be broadcast on DStv channel 198 and GOtv channel 29.

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Africanews added to DStv, GOtv

Pan-African news channel Africanews has been made available on MultiChoice’s DStv and GOtv in more than 40 countries across Africa, including South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Angola.

Launched in 2016 from Pointe-Noire, Congo, the channel is a subsidiary of Euronews Groupnow. It now reaches 20 million homes across the continent, offering a range of programmes on culture, lifestyle, sport, business, travel and science and technology.

Euronews CEO Michael Peters said: “Amid the current Covid-19 crisis, Euronews and Africanews’ mission has never been so important: helping people access real-time, up-to-date information, empowering them to make sense of what’s going on in the world by presenting a diversity of viewpoints.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the MultiChoice group once again to offer their DStv and GOtv subscribers access to Africanews, after Euronews launched on DStv last November. Euronews and Africanews have always been recognised and valued for their fact-based impartial and independent newsgathering. In these times of uncertainty, millions of more people in Africa will now have access to these trusted sources of information.”

Yolisa Phahle, CEO MultiChoice Group Africa, added: “In these unprecedented times, the importance of having access to precise, reliable information becomes paramount for our customers and their families. We have increased access to news channels already, and the launch of Africanews confirms our commitment to doing all we can to provide the best possible service.”

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Ratnik release postponed over virus

Dimeji Ajibola’s Ratnik stars Osas Ighodaro

The release of award-winning Nollywood sci-fi movie Ratnik has been pushed back because of the coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria.

The film had been scheduled for release on April 10, but distributor Blue Pictures Entertainment said on Instagram: “Due to the recent outbreak of Covid-19, we have decided to put a halt to the release of Ratnik until there’s a positive turnaround with the situation of things. In the meantime, ensure you observe all preventive measures and stay safe.”

Dimeji Ajibola, the film’s director, added: “We just want to observe what the next few days will bring. If situations deteriorate, then we will shift the release date forward.”

The movie, which won Best Art Director and Best Costume Design at the recent Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, stars Osas Ighodaro as a brazen special trooper who returns from the war to find her only sister on the verge of becoming a zombie following the release of a chemical. It also features other Nollywood actors including Bolanle Ninalowo, Adunni Ade, Karibi Fubara, Tope Tedela, Paul Utomi and Meg Otanwa.

According to Blue Pictures Entertainment, no new date is being considered until the crisis is over.

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MultiChoice to drop ITV channel

Pay TV operator MultiChoice is to remove British entertainment channel ITV Choice from its offering at the end of May after five years on its DStv platform.

Although the channel stopped broadcasting across the Middle East and Asia in August 2019, it has continued to air in South Africa.

An ITV Choice spokesman said: “DStv has decided that ITV’s international TV channel, ITV Choice, will no longer be carried on the DStv platform in Africa from June 4, 2020. The ITV brand will continue as a video-on-demand service in other territories.”

The news follows the removal of A+E Networks UK channels Lifetime, History and Crime+Investigation from MultiChoice’s offering in October 2019.

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British-Nigerian’s novel set for TV

Lionsgate-backed UK prodco Potboiler Television has acquired the rights to adapt British-Nigerian author Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker-winning novel Girl, Woman, Other for television.

Bernardine Evaristo

First published in 2019, Girl, Woman, Other tells the story of modern Britain through the voices of 12 very different people, most of whom are black women.

“We are delighted to be working with Bernardine on bringing this vibrant and joyous novel to the screen. It is a vivid and authentic, as well as important, story of our times, ” said Potboiler’s Gail Egan, who founded the company in 2017 with backing from Lionsgate.

Evaristo is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. The hardback edition stayed in the Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller list for nine consecutive weeks and was the second-best-selling literary fiction hardback of 2019. It has just been longlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Potboiler has previously adapted novels for screen including film adaptations of John le Carré’s The Constant Gardener and Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, plus Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, which is about to go into production for WarnerMedia-owned streamer HBO Max.

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Illegal broadcast stations shut down

The Nigerian Copyright Commission and the Department of State Services (DSS) have shut down three stations in Abia state for pirating the broadcast signals of rights owners including StarTimes and MultiChoice.

John Asein

NCC Rivers state office coordinator Ifeoma Ezinma said raids on Popular Broadcasting Service (PBS) and Modern Communication Limited (MCL)’s  premises uncovered equipment including broadcasting decoders for Ben Sports and Canal+, and those for the retransmission of StarTimes, Communications Trends Nigeria Limited TV and MultiChoice Nigeria content.

Ezinma said: “Based on intelligence and surveillance reports, the broadcast facilities of PBS and MCL being used for copyright infringement activities were confiscated on Thursday March 12, while employees engaged in broadcast piracy were arrested during joint-enforcement operations by three separate teams of NCC and DSS operatives.

“Following months of surveillance and intelligence-gathering, the illicit broadcast operations at the three facilities located in Aba and Umuahia in Abia state were interrupted when copyright inspectors from NCC and DSS operatives raided the facilities.”

NCC director-general John Asein added: “The joint operation is a demonstration of a common objective of relevant agencies to ensure that the laudable economic policies being introduced by government are not thwarted by the illegal activities of unscrupulous persons.”

Asein also appealed to the public to desist from patronising copyright pirates and urged them to report suspected copyright violations to the commission.

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Virus delays Indian-Nigerian movie

Namaste Wahala will now hit theatres in October

The release of Indian-Nigerian movie Namaste Wahala has been postponed to October because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

With the film originally scheduled to debut on April 10, filmmaker Hamisha Daryani Ahuja attributed the move to the extension of post-production on the title.

“In light of recent global developments, we have had to extend our post-production schedule and push back the release date of Namaste Wahala to October 2020,” she wrote on Instagram.

“We are super-excited to bring you this magical Bollywood/Nollywood love story and promise that it will be everything that you imagine and more.”

While Hollywood has been the film industry hardest hit by the pandemic – with release dates of major titles pushed back or productions halted – Namaste Wahala is the first Nollywood production to be affected.

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DStv Now service to stream online

MultiChoice’s DStv Now

Pay TV company MultiChoice is to offer live streaming of its DStv channels to almost all subscribers for three days from this Friday.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, DStv Compact, Compact Plus, Access and Family customers will be able to stream the channels via the DStv Now site or app.

All subscribers except for those on the EasyView package will have access to unlimited entertainment, news, documentary and sports content that is usually exclusively for DStv Premium customers.

The three-day initiative is an attempt to test whether MultiChoice servers can handle a large influx of DStv viewers logging in and using the streaming platform for concurrent live streams. Last year, the service crashed during the final season of Game of Thrones and some Rugby World Cup matches.

MultiChoice plans to introduce a streaming version of its DStv service that is similar to DStv Now, with the launch expected soon.

In November 2019, MultiChoice’s connected video CEO, Niclas Ekdahl, said the company hoped to have the standalone DStv Now service ready by the end of this month.

“I think the stuff that we’ve done on DStv Now in the past 12 months is actually bringing us much closer to saying, ‘Yeah, this is a service I can stand behind’, and that this is going to be delivering a seamless user journey for our consumers,” Ekdahl said.

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NCC named regulator of the year

Henry Nkemadu (right) receives the NCC’s award

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has been named outstanding regulator of the year.

Presented to the commission at a ceremony on Victoria Island, Lagos, the award was received by NCC public affairs director Henry Nkemadu on behalf of executive vice-chairman Umar Danbatta.

Nkemadu said: “The award is a testament to the untiring efforts of the commission in creating an enabling environment for all telecom stakeholders. It is also a call for the commission to do more for the consumers.”

He added that the NCC was committed to ensuring high-quality service for consumers and would put in place well-monitored measures toward protecting telecoms consumers and consolidating the gains of the Nigerian telecoms sector.

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HalTV preps Islamic gameshow

Islamic-themed Nigerian lifestyle channel HalTV is set to launch a gameshow for Ramadan called Hajj Quest.

Sheriff Bakare

Modelled on global hit format Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, the show will task participants with answering questions relating to Ramadan and general Islamic knowledge.

Winners claim an all-expenses-paid pilgrimage trip (hajj). HalTV Africa founder and CEO Sheriff Bakare said a pilot of the gameshow saw two people claim the prize.

“It is a one-of-its-kind show, as there’s not a lot of content people consume that is spiritual but also entertaining. People want to go on hajj after Ramadan, so every night after finishing fasting they can watch someone play to win for hajj.

“This year we’re expanding it and hope to give people at least one hajj winner per night, God willing. Questions will also be asked on air for the TV audience to submit answers to win a trip for Umrah or to Dubai.

“The market is still very young. More content needs to be produced for Ramadan and outside of Ramadan to engage the audience. However, there are no entertainment series that run every night of the month of Ramadan, unlike in the Middle East, where millions of people tune into Syrian, Egyptian, Turkish and Gulf series – musalsals – after iftar.”

The show will be in the English language but simultaneous translation will be offered for participants who speak Nigerian languages and dialects.

HalTV provides Islamic content ranging from education, art, culture, fashion and beauty, films and documentaries.

The show’s launch date has yet to be confirmed.

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MultiChoice blamed for SA digital delay

Former South Africa communications minister Yunus Carrim has blamed pay TV company MultiChoice for the slow progress of the country’s migration to digital.

Yunus Carrim

In his testimony to SA’s Zondo Commission, an ongoing judicial inquiry into political corruption, Carrim claimed a hefty R553m (US$35m) deal between MultiChoice and pubcaster SABC was intended to ensure the latter’s support in the pay TV giant’s anti-encryption strategy.

MultiChoice has long been opposed to signal encryption, and Carrim said this was because it would make it easier for rivals like E.tv to enter the African pay TV market and compete with its DStv pay service.

To prevent that from happening, the company inserted a clause into its SABC agreement that ensured the public broadcaster followed its stance on encryption, according to Carrim.

The former communications minister said MultiChoice’s then CEO, Imtiaz Patel, made it clear that the clause was a deal-breaker.

“This, for me, is a very clear example of regulatory or policy capture whereby irregular means are used to shape government policy. There is absolutely no reason to include, in a commercial transaction between the SABC and DStv, a clause which deals with government policy on encryption,” Carrim said.

Joe Heshu

“Lobbying by MultiChoice was very primitive. Very backward. It is not consistent with the social democracy we are. It has caused a huge setback to the digital migration process. It suits them because they can retain their monopoly.

“The delay in digital migration and the subsequent allocation of valuable new spectrum to operators is costing South Africa dearly.”

In response, Joe Heshu, MultiChoice group executive for corporate affairs, said Carrim’s allegations were baseless.

“MultiChoice and its officials deny these allegations. Carrim confirmed under oath that he cannot attest to having personal knowledge of any fraud or corruption in respect of the SABC/MultiChoice agreement.

“We have informed the Zondo Commission that we will respond to the allegations made against us in due course and reserve all of our rights.”

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Nigerian cartoon goes global

Bino & Fino is distributed by Edutainment Licensing

Nigerian cartoon Bino & Fino, created by local animation studio EVCL’s director Adamu Waziri, has been licensed in countries around the world.

Picked up for global distribution by UK-based Edutainment Licensing late last year, the series is now available in 15 countries, including the US, the UK and parts of Europe.

The 2D educational preschool show can be seen via YouTube as well as on kids’ streamer Hopster, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines’ in-flight service, Dutch kids’ channel Pebble TV and US university and library streaming service Kanopy.

Waziri, who developed the toon after discovering that most Nigerian children watch foreign shows, said the series aims to promote African stories globally.

Bino & Fino follows the adventures of the titular Nigerian siblings as they learn about African food, animals, countries, languages, instruments, geography and folk tales.

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Indian-Nigerian film set for April launch

Namaste Wahala was filmed in Lagos

Indian-Nigerian movie Namaste Wahala is set to premiere in cinemas across Nigeria on April 24.

The Bollywood/Nollywood collaboration was filmed entirely in Lagos. It was produced by Indian-born businesswoman-turned-filmmaker Hamisha Daryani Ahuja, who has lived in Nigeria since she was a child.

Namaste Wahala loosely translates to ‘Hello Trouble.’ It was mostly filmed in English, with a mix of Hindi and Nigeria’s pidgin language.

The plot follows a Nigerian-Indian couple whose plan to spend forever together is threatened by their cultural differences.

The film’s cast features stars from both countries, including veteran Nollywood actor Joke Silva plus Richard Mofe Damijo, Ini-Dima Okojie, Ruslaan Mumtaz, MI Abaga, Broda Shaggi, Segal Sujata, Adaora Lumina, Ibrahim Suleiman and Big Brother Naija’s Frodd.

Ahuja said her experience living in Africa’s most populous country inspired her to make her debut film. “I am Indian but I have lived in Nigeria my whole life. Everyone loves Bollywood and Nollywood, so I thought, ‘How is it that no one has done a love story between the two?’ she added.

“The story has been in my head for a long time but I wanted it to be completely accurate. I wanted both cultures to be portrayed the same, that no culture was above the other. It features classic Bollywood dancing and singing scenes to keep it as authentic as possible.”

Ahuja added: “We have so much talent in Nollywood. What I think with these international collaborations is that we will be able to showcase all these amazing works internationally.”

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Vivacom links with Magic Movies

Vivacom, the largest telecommunications company in Bulgaria, has teamed with African broadcaster Magic Movies to provide uplink services on the Eutelsat 8W satellite platform.

Bernard Azria

The pact comprises a complete solution including the signal contribution, encoding, encryption and uplink of TV channels Nina TV English and Nina TV French for African pay TV platforms. Nina TV showcases telenovelas from Africa, Brazil and elsewhere.

Bernard Azria, Magic Movies CEO, said: “We are excited about our partnership with Vivacom, as it will improve our reliability and coverage to a wider audience in African and Latin American markets. Vivacom [offers] the best quality possible with highly professional services in uplink and monitoring.”

Vladimir Rangelov, senior manager of broadcasting services at Vivacom, added: “We are delighted to partner with Nina TV and bring their channels to the pay TV operators in Africa and new markets, and that they recognise our unrivalled ability to provide a high-quality service that helps them reach new viewers, expanding their customer base.”

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Idachaba named acting NBC chief

Armstrong Augustine Idachaba has been appointed acting director general of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) by the federal government following the suspension of Is’haq Modibbo Kawu.

Armstrong Augustine Idachaba

Idachaba joined the NBC as an assistant chief research/monitoring officer in November 1994. He was later promoted to zonal director of the then Umuahia zone, covering Uyo, Abuja, and Lagos, before becoming director, broadcast monitoring, at the NBC headquarters.

He was most recently director, broadcast policy and research.

Idachaba has previously worked as a features writer for the Nigerian Voice Newspaper and as an artist and presenter for NTA Makurdi. In addition, he has published several books on media, digital technology, theatre, and broadcast regulation.

Idachaba will continue to contribute to the commission’s monitoring and research activities.

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