Tag Archives: Africa MediaWorks

EbonyLife’s Abudu scales Summit

In a speeech to the Creative Nigeria Summit, EbonyLife TV CEO Mo Abudu, the ‘Oprah of Africa,’ revealed her company’s strategy and ambitions.

Mo Abudu at CNS 2018

Mo Abudu is referred to as the Oprah of Africa, or as Africa’s most successful woman, according to Forbes Magazine.

These epithets are unsurprising as she constantly proves her prowess and dedication to her role as CEO of EbonyLife TV, the first pan-African TV channel owned by an African woman.

In her speech at the second edition of the Creative Nigeria Summit this week, she took us through her journey of the past five years as CEO of EbonyLife TV and gave hints about what to expect from future projects, also giving a detailed account of the drama deal between EbonyLife and Sony Pictures Television.

This is her speech in full:

First and foremost, I would like to thank the organisers of the Creative Nigeria Summit for creating this platform for our sector – the media and entertainment sector, the creative sector, the sector of show business. Congratulations on hosting your second summit.

The creative sector is wide and vast and includes so many sectors and sub-sectors, but I will simply focus on what I’ve been asked to speak about today, The Creative Vision and Process Behind Global Drama Hits.

We cannot speak about the creative vision and process behind global drama hits without making reference to global leaders in this space. I would therefore like to share with you a short summary of the most watched shows by some of the largest streaming platforms.

To start with, let’s talk about Netflix.

American Vandal is a comedy drama that takes a look at the aftermath of a high school prank that left 27 faculty members’ cars vandalised. Second, 13 Reasons Why is a drama series that revolves around a teenage girl’s suicide and the mystery around her tragic death. Third, Riverdale is a teen drama series that features a star-studded cast navigating the troubled waters of sex, romance, school and family in the small town of Riverdale

The Sons of the Caliphate looks at the ‘flamboyant aristocratic Northern Nigerian lifestyle’

Now, let’s move on to Amazon. The Man in the High Castle is a history series that offers a scary glimpse at an alternate history in which Hitler won World War Two. Second, One Mississippi is a comedy series about a radio host who returns to Mississippi after receiving news that her mother will be taken off life support. Third, The Tick is a series based on a superhero in a blue tick costume who arrives in the city to help combat crime and uncover the mysterious figure behind the city’s underworld.

Another major streaming giant is HBO, which we’re all familiar with. Game of Thrones is an epic TV series about the tale of royal feuds, dynastic conflict and the struggle for ultimate control in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.

Second, Big Little Lies, a series about ex-husbands and second wives, schoolyard scandals, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive. Third, Westworld is a series that centres on a futuristic theme park with some dirty secrets and a Western motif, where the wealthy can pay to experience adventure that real life could never provide

What is important to note is that I have taken the liberty to include EbonyLife ON as a future global giant. Because we believe in global best practices.

Two weeks ago, we launched EbonyLife ON across the continent, a video-on-demand service that allows subscribers all over the world to watch our treasure trove of content for a nominal fee. Since then, we have witnessed nearly 10,000 downloads from our Apple and Google app stores, and our web portal numbers are well over 10,000.

Fifty: The Series follows four women in their middle years

The most watched shows on EbonyLife ON are:

  • Castle & Castle, a legal drama series set in a successful Lagos law firm run by Remi and Tega Castle. Will the marriage survive the business or will the business survive the marriage?
  • The Sons of the Caliphate, a drama series about the lives of three rich, entitled, passionate and ambitious young men. It is a journey into the rich cultural and flamboyant aristocratic Northern Nigerian lifestyle.
  • Fifty: The Series, which follows the lives of four women who are forced to take mid-life inventories as ambition and betrayal threaten their relationships.

Globally, it’s all about the ratings and not sentiment.

From what we can see, it’s all about science-fiction, like Game of Thrones; Murder Mysteries, like 13 Reasons Why and Romance, like our very own Castle & Castle.

So, who decides on setting the creative vision and process? The showrunner.

The showrunner is the 21st century term for the leading executive producer of a Hollywood television series in the US. The concept has since been adopted in the Canadian and British TV industries.

A showrunner typically has creative control of a TV series production, through combining the responsibilities of the head writer, executive producer and script editor.

In order for this vision to become a reality, the showrunner sets up the writers’ room. The writers’ room is the room in which the showrunner and the writers of a television series collaborate on the plot and develop the script.

All writers are expected to participate in the pitching process, speaking up and offering their ideas or listening to everyone else’s pitches. This is where episodes are sliced up for individual writers to develop.

The Wedding Party shows what happens when a couple’s wedding plans go badly wrong

I personally believe the ‘beat sheet’ is one of the most important elements in this process. This is what we as Nigerians and writers across the continent need to spend more time on.

A beat equates to about a minute of show time and there is roughly one page of script per beat.

I would suggest further research in this area. Looking at the work of Blake Synder, an American writer who has developed what is known as a BeatSheet Calculator. According to Snyder, every good script should have a certain structure. There is a lot information online about this process and it’s one that we need to adhere to if we want our stories to be stronger, captivating, entertaining and leave your audience wanting more.

Talking about leaving your audience captivated, entertained and wanting more – even if I say so myself – we achieved this with The Wedding Party. Using global best practices was key to our process. I’d like to share a few key lessons on The Wedding Party franchise with you.

The audience should be able to relate to the story and characters. What we found with The Wedding Party is that it didn’t matter where you were from, how old you were, or your religious background. We’re all able to relate to this story. As we all know, The Wedding Party is an everyday story about a couple’s big wedding plans that turn into a nightmare that includes exes, fighting parents and uninvited guests – most, if not all of us can relate to this.

To ensure our audience can relate to the characters in our script, we spent a great deal of time casting. We looked at the current relevance and social media following of all the actors. The use of A-list actors for The Wedding Party played a huge role in ensuring its success.

The next step was to bring a director on board with a clear vision to guide the cast and crew. Experienced crew for photography, sound, lighting and music were all critical.

I cannot over-emphasise the importance of marketing. With enough time for marketing, you can create anticipation for a film. The Wedding Party began publicity six months before its cinema release, hence the various records broken by The Wedding Party 1 and 2.

In fact, we started marketing the film from the first day on set. Every day during production, we shared the process with our audience with posts on social media and clips from the most interesting behind the scenes moments.

Nollywood’s Richard Mofe-Damijo in Castle & Castle

Screenings at festivals around the world position the film in the world market and attracts buyers. The world premiere of The Wedding Party took place at the Toronto International Film Festival. Getting into an international film festival is in itself another process. We were excited that we had a sold-out premiere with over 1,400 people from all over the world. This event really helped with publicity in social media, blogs and print.

And as you know, we have the largest movie premieres in Nigeria that could have been held anywhere across the globe. From our red carpets, to our dress code, to our themed events, to VVIP list as long as my arm. From the ‘save the dates’ to the invites to the entertainment and dinner, to the after-party.

Generally, all the razzmatazz and paparazzi. This makes for the most glamourous event, we know, as Nigerians we love glamour. This adds to building anticipation of the cinema release.

The Wedding Party was released in the run-up to Christmas, allowing for mid-week afternoon shows to be sold out. We hosted media screenings to help to get mentions of the film out in advance. Once we were in the cinema, we hosted meet and greet events with the cast. We kept our audience excited about our numbers in the box office from week to week.

Last, but not least, I’d like to talk about our partnership with Sony. Just five months ago, we finalised a three-project production deal with Sony Pictures Television and became the first African production company to partner with a major Hollywood studio. Years of development was put into this particular project that Sony chose – major lesson for us – we must also put in the work and be ready.

Finally, I’d like to talk to you about EbonyLife TV. We recently celebrated our fifth anniversary on July 1. We restructured our business to focus on four key areas. We were able to do this because of the lay of the land and the opportunities that we have found in Nigeria over the last six years.

I say six years, because we spent an entire year creating programmes before we launched the channel on July 1, 2013. Prior to that an additional four years on conceptualising the brand you now see. So, a 10-year journey.

EbonyLife TV, our linear channel, broadcasts on DStv 165 and StarTimes 107 and 191 in Africa, and on Flow in 10 Caribbean countries. With the creation of EbonyLIfe TV, we realised that African audiences want to see themselves in their own stories, on television and at the cinema.

They want to see an African narrative that reflects their own struggles and triumphs, the closeness of their relationships and the progress being made in their emerging societies. We were tired of being portrayed in perpetual crisis: war, famine and corruption. We decided to change that narrative.

We know how important it is to continue to change the narrative. We started with TV and within a year of launching EbonyLife TV, we launched EbonyLife Films.

We have produced the biggest films in Nollywood to date. They include Fifty, The Wedding Party movies, Royal Hibiscus Hotel and our new December film, Chief Daddy.

We recently acquired the rights to Professor Wole Soyinka’s play Death & the King’s Horseman. We see this as a global feature film release and we are hard at work on bringing this to the world of global cinema.

EbonyLife Studios is a film production service for in-house projects and third-party clients. We have seen this need grow over the years – a need to service our own productions and that of other commercial organisations requiring the production of events, infomercials, commercials and other video generated content.

EbonyLife ON is our global video-on-demand (VoD) digital service for viewers who want to enjoy high-quality series and movies at their convenience. This expands our reach dramatically, beyond satellite TV platforms. Now, anyone with an internet-connected mobile device can watch our content, no longer constrained by TV schedules or expensive monthly subscriptions.

We are pleased with the numbers we have seen so far – we have nearly 10,000 downloads. This is with little or no advertising, and just shows the potential of the market and the potential within the market.

Research tells us that by 2023 that there will be 10 million SVoD subscribers across the continent of Africa, with the most growth coming from Nigeria and South Africa. The opportunities within our SVoD and digital market are still early stage with no winners at the moment.

We believe the companies with the best content will ultimately win – keeping the consumer in mind and his or her preferences for programming. This is the most exciting part of our business as we believe everything we do is tied to growing into a media tech company.

EbonyLife ON Mobile is a partnership with MTN, Airtel and 9 Mobile. Mobile communications technology has allowed Nigeria to leapfrog into the future with the widespread use of smartphones. Rapidly increasing bandwidth is creating a brand-new landscape for video content producers like us. We work with these telcos on specific special offers – data packaged along with an agreed piece of EbonyLife branded content.

What does the future hold for us?

Our dream is to continue to create premium content and ensure that we are able to distribute this content to the world using the best of technology, giving everyone the opportunity for a limited amount an opportunity to join our world and share our story with audiences across the globe.

My personal philosophy is: “If you can think it, you can do it.” So, when others look at Nigeria or Africa and see challenges, I see opportunity – lots of it. If you can help to solve the problems, the rewards are great.

Q&A
In a brief Q&A with Africa MediaWorks CEO Lindsey Oliver, Abudu later opened up about how it all started, stating: “I’m a very spiritual person and I believe everything happens through the guidance of God.

“We started at Cross River State. I remember being invited to Calabar by a good friend of mine, meanwhile, as that was happening, one of my sponsors was demanding that I get on social media and threatening to drop Moments with Mo if I don’t. So, I got on social media, sent a tweet saying how much I enjoyed being at Calabar and got to meet the governor. These things didn’t happen all at once but I felt it was preordained.

“At times, you’re never quite sure how it would go, if anybody had told me that joining social media and meeting the governor would lead to where we are today, I may not have believed them. I think the secret is, keep putting your story out there – if I hadn’t shared my vision with the then Cross River State governor and him his, EbonyLife may not have begun operations in Calabar, truly, the plan was actually to launch here in Lagos. So, one key thing to note is, if you don’t share your vision it will never be reality!”

When asked about her views on the regulatory and censorship environment in Nigeria, Mo said: “I think censorship is important but I would like it to be relaxed a bit more because it squashes creativity and if it continues like this, we would lose our audiences to content not created by us. They would begin to consume what’s not local – in fact, that’s already happening. We need to be realistic about what’s happening, we need to be able to share our stories.”

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Making African media work

Content Nigeria hears from Lindsey Oliver, CEO of Africa MediaWorks (AMW), creator of the Yanga TV channel and former director of TVC, on the first day of the Creative Nigeria Summit (CNS).

Lindsey Oliver at the Creative Nigeria Summit

In this exclusive interview, Oliver discusses her take on the content market in Nigeria, her current projects and her experiences at the ongoing CNS.

Tell us about your experience in the African television landscape.
I previously worked at TVC but, even before that, when I was at Bloomberg, Al Jazeera and CNBC, I came to Africa quite a lot – certainly more than most people in the industry were coming to Africa. I’ve been to Lagos, Johannesburg, Nairobi and North Africa.
I got an opportunity to come to Nigeria to advise TVC on best practice and help out with their commercial department to create more advertising revenue in 2016 for a year.

How was that for you? Did you leave fulfilled?
I did, I loved it. For the last four months, I was asked to be the interim CEO. That was incredibly interesting because I was able to have a look at the company and see how everything was working. It was a wonderful job and I was very lucky to have it.
I got back to the UK with the aim of having something more than just kissing goodbye to Nigeria, and that’s why we set up AMW and the Yanga TV channel. Yanga TV is for African diaspora but particularly for Nigerian and West African diaspora.

Do you think Nigerians living in Nigeria can relate to the content as well?
I hope so. We are buying content from Nigeria to show on the channel and then creating our own content. We have a lovely studio in West London and I’m making content that I will bring down to Nigeria.
There is definitely a crossover. When I speak to people in the UK who are either Nigerian or of Nigerian heritage, they’ve got a connection and are very interested in hearing about the Nigerian content that is seeping back to the UK. We are showing a lot of contemporary Nollywood movies as well.

How did the name Yanga come about?
I didn’t want something that was from any one Nigerian language because then that suggests it’s for only one tribe, and we weren’t seeking that. I said I’d like something in pidgin that could also appeal to outside countries.
I had a list of pidgin words but I chose Yanga because it’s ‘show-off.’ Someone said ‘yanga’ was a bit rude, but I wanted it because it grabs your attention and because this is a community that has something to shout about.

How are the ratings for Yanga going?
Really well. It’s always a challenge for any African channel with the ratings system in the UK. They are horribly under-represented on the system but, regarding other methods of ratings, we are performing much better. We are doing well compared to other African channels.
However, I feel that the African channels as a group aren’t really punching their weight, and I’m sure it’s not because people are not watching. It’s because the panel is very small and there aren’t many Africans on it.

What steps would you take for Yanga TV to be better represented?
We are looking at other ratings systems, especially those showing we rate much better. We are also making sure of our marketing and promotion of the Yanga website. We buy content in Nigeria but can’t show all of it here because it would be really expensive to buy a satellite signal here. So what we’ve done is to make nine or 10 series – from comedies to cartoons for children – available on the Yanga website so they can be accessed in Nigeria.

What other initiatives is AMW working on?
AMW is a brand that celebrates and promotes West African diaspora in the UK. I hope it will go further than that but right now we’re pretty young; our TV channel has been on air for only four months, though we were building things and making programmes long before that. AMW also has a fine-art photography prize, where we invite professional fine artists to submit their works to be showcased in a gallery in London.

Is there a plan to turn that into video content?
Yes, we will show that story and the prize for the winner is us commissioning a piece of work. If we can continue this year-on-year, we can acquire a lot of contemporary African photographic art. This initiative is quite different from Yanga, which is about celebrating everybody and not just professionals.

Are there any other shows from AMW?
At AMW, we tend to do factual and serial programming. We have Journalists’ Hangout, which we kind of borrowed from TVC News. There we get people talking about daily issues in Africa and the Africa diaspora. It’s currently airing on Friday nights on TVC News.

What have you learned here at CNS 2018?
Jeff Kalligheri, CEO at Waterstone Entertainment, is always interesting to listen to and, being from a Hollywood background, it’s great to hear what he would want from a producer. I know what I would like as a small channel ,but Jeff represents Hollywood and you have FremantleMedia and Sony Pictures TV represented as well, so they are all big boys and it’s interesting to hear what they have to say.
They mentioned why big companies get nervous buying into big ideas – because it may come back to hurt them years later if somebody decides to sue them if they had a similar idea. So all sharing of ideas must be well documented and perhaps trademarked or copyrighted so producers can’t claim that a company’s project was based on their idea.

Talking about sharing, is there anything else you would like to tell us?
I would love to push people to view Yanga. We will be giving out content on other platforms. The Yanga channel will launch on a TV platform here in Nigeria sometime in the future. I would love to see how Nigerians react to the content made by the Nigerian diaspora; it’s important that we build a bridge that goes both ways. Yanga is also on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. We are everywhere, really, so even though you can’t switch on linear TV to access Yanga, you can check us out digitally.

In conclusion, what do you think about the CNS this week?
I recently spoke about the need to have a market in Nigeria, for young producers here, so they don’t have to always go to the south of France or LA or to Johannesburg for those other big markets. Then I realised there is a market happening right here during the coffee breaks, which is brilliant. There’s great potential here and there’s no reason the Creative Nigeria Summit can’t grow into that.

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CNS upbeat about digital era

Creative Nigeria Summit 2018 wrapped up successfully on Tuesday with a full day of in-depth masterclasses and industry discussions.

The second and final day of Creative Nigeria Summit (CNS) 2018 kicked off with a plenary discussion focused on coproduction that featured Sanjay Salil, MD of MediaGuru, Waterstone Entertainment CEO Jeff Kallegheri and producer and host Eunice Omole and was moderated by Africa MediaWorks CEO Lindsey Oliver.

According to the panel, the key to the right coproduction is focusing on the fundamentals, by looking at your environment before going to Hollywood. They all agreed that building relationships locally is essential for growth, although honesty and good reputation are also key.

Meanwhile, Salil warned against having certain expectations when coproducing: “If someone tells you to change things too much, don’t do it. If you are convinced that you shouldn’t do something, don’t compromise. Always have editorial control, never bend over completely to change your story.”

Speakers line up on day two of CNS2018

In his keynote speech, Vesselin Shaoulov, CEO of GARB Audience Measurement in Bulgaria, gave an in-depth insight into the importance of audience measurement within the television and film industries. During his presentation, guests were made aware of the processes involved in audience measurement and ratings.

“Effective and successful media products target the right audience and communicate with them in an effective way. As the media industry becomes more fragmented, so competition for the audience share becomes more intense than ever. Knowing precisely who your target audience are and what makes them tick is therefore increasingly important,” said Shaoulov.

Offering a completely different perspective on retaining audience attention, Nigerian writer Tolu Ajayi returned with another masterclass, this time focusing on the power of telenovelas and how to create them locally.

“Firstly, you must legally acquire telenovelas to adapt them. Then you write in your own backgrounds and characters in a way that your viewers can relate to but ensure that in editing you keep it as close to the original as possible,” he said.

The secret to international formats Anahita Kheder, senior VP for the Middle East, Africa and South East Europe at FremantleMedia, gave her take on the secret to international formats: “Use the right platform for the right audience and generate revenue for your local content by going global,” she said.

“You don’t need to produce a pilot to share your content. Why not sell your story instead, sell the script and have someone else produce the film, but ensure that your rights are protected.

“Sometimes being on TV is unnecessary – try digital instead. Many projects began on a digital platform. At FremantleMedia, we don’t leave the virality of our content to chance. If we want it to go viral we put in the work, we put ourselves out there, making sure our content remains relevant to audiences around the world,” said Kheder.

In a panel session moderated by Africa MediaWorks’ Oliver, Play TV chief Toyin Subair asked a panel of advertising agency and media execs – including Viacom Africa’s Bada Akintunde; Anthony Ekun, creative director at SO&U; and Tolulope Ajayi, branded content manager at Insight Communications – to address the issue of “unfair mediation” by agencies in the media industry.

“You are the ones who will lose if brands go digital without the interference of agencies, so I ask: what solutions do you propose to this, because you make more money out of these deals. You’ve stated the problems and directed them at the producers and directors, but where do you come in?” asked Subair.

Akintunde replied that he couldn’t speak for the other agencies but believes that the media industry should jointly deliberate on how these issues can be solved.

However, the panelists agreed that brands are becoming more forthcoming with audience engagement and are improving the content they produce, making each advert relatable to its target audience.

Elsewhere, Ed Waller, editorial director of UK publisher C21Media, delivered a report on the international formats market. “The value of the global formats industry has more than doubled since 2004 and demand for local programming is the key to this growth,” he said.

The last plenary discussion was about the effectiveness of social media in the media industry. The session was moderated by Tobi Balogun, CEO of TobyDonut, featuring Tiwalola Olanubi, lead creative at DottsMediaHouse, and Olufemi Oguntamu, CEO of Penzaarville Africa, who spoke about the importance of social media to marketing.

According to the speakers, social media is a way to advertise as though you are not advertising. In that way you get people talking about a movie long before it begins to air and it helps to keep your audience interested and engaged.

“If you are a producer, you don’t need to fight to get your content on TV – try digital media. That’s what [child comedian] Emmanuella did with YouTube. However, you need to understand that what worked yesterday may not work today, but always bear in mind that getting content on social media doesn’t require a huge budget,” said Balogun.

The event wrapped with a vote of thanks from Taiwo Olakunle, MD of Think Tank Media & Advertising, organiser of Creative Nigeria Summit.

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Yanga! seeking drama, reality

Yanga!, the UK channel that targets African diaspora, has been at the MipTV market in Cannes this week on the hunt for high-end drama and reality content.

The channel, which launched four weeks ago, is run by Africa MediaWorks MD Lindsey Oliver, the former director of networks at CNBC Europe and founding director of Al Jazeera International, who said “top quality, contemporary West African drama” was top of her content agenda.

“We’re also interested in some fun reality programmes if we can find the right ones. We have a few in mind we’re looking at from Nigeria but we’re interested in Ghanaian programming and really anything from Africa that’s English-speaking,” Oliver said.

Yanga! is currently available on Sky and Freesat in the UK and Oliver said any content the channel does pick up this week probably needs to be on an exclusive basis to make it destination viewing for its audience.

“We’re only four weeks in but, as we go, we’re already adapting the programming line-up we’ve got. We’re finding that some shows inevitably work better than others so we’re on the hunt for some new, compelling content to launch in the autumn,” she added.

“Our demographic is keen on celebrity and high fashion. We want things that are fun, dynamic and have lots of energy.”

Yanga! has also been shopping its own programming slate this week, which includes a range of factual shows. “We’re making lots of different series,” said Oliver. “We have a comedy series called Number 6, a children’s series called Fizzi and a young people’s Afro beats music chatshow called Turn Up.”

While commissioning content is not yet in Yanga!’s plans, Oliver said it would be an option in the future.

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Yanga! takes to Sky

Stand-up series Number 6

UK firm Africa MediaWorks has launched an entertainment channel aimed at the African diaspora on Sky’s pay TV platform in the UK.

Yanga! is run by Africa MediaWorks CEO Lindsey Oliver, the former director of networks at CNBC Europe and founding director of Al Jazeera International. Its programming director is Simon London.

It offers a mix of original commissions and acquired content across a range of genres, from lifestyle, comedy, music and drama to kids, current affairs and news. The network is the first commercial venture from Africa MediaWorks.

Originals on the slate include late-night show Turn Up, stand-up comedy programme Number 6, magazine talkshow Noni and current affairs-based Journalists’ Hangout UK. Children’s segment Fizzi also features, while acquired programmes include Before 30, Crazy, Lovely, Cool and Wives on Strike.

“Yanga! will nurture new talent both in front and behind the camera, which is an important part of the ambition of Africa MediaWorks to strengthen and scale the volume and quality of African content,” said Africa MediaWorks MD Lindsey Oliver.

Content Nigeria reported on the launch plans in October last year, when Yanga! presenter Mansour Bellow was at trade fair Mipcom in France shooting for the channel. Yanga!, which is Nigerian slang for being confident, will aim to give UK viewers with Nigerian heritage a “closer understanding of their culture,” Bellow added.

The channel will broadcast 15 hours a day from 09.00 to 00.00. It has been in testing stage for the past six months but officially launches on Sky today. Content will also be available on the Yanga! UK YouTube channel and website.

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