Kids’ spy drama Alex Rider, from Sony-backed Eleventh Hour Films, has been picked up in almost 100 territories around the world, including all major African markets.
Distributed by Sony Pictures Television (SPT), the adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s young-adult spy novels has been acquired by South Africa-based M-Net, which will offer the show on Showmax across sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa.
Meanwhile, StarzPlay has taken the series for broadcast in multiple territories across the Middle East and North Africa and NENT Group will add it to its streaming service Viaplay in Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
The 8×60’ series has also been picked up by Kinopoisk HD in Russia and will air on Nova in Greece and DSmart in Turkey.
In Asia, buyers include Sony Liv in India, Korea Telecom in South Korea and U-Next in Japan, while TVNZ is streaming the series in New Zealand. Sony-owned AXN will broadcast it in multiple European territories, including Portugal, Hungary, Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The news follows the agreement with Amazon Prime Video in the UK to carry the show from next month, while Movistar+ is showing the series in Spain. Deals for territories including the US, China and Australia will be announced soon, according to SPT.
Alex Rider was the first series commissioned by SPT’s international production and distribution divisions on spec, greenlighting the project independently to be distributed worldwide.
“When we started on this unique journey our aim was to create a premium drama that paid justice to Anthony’s novels, with exciting action scenes, nerve-shredding tension and great acting. Eleventh Hour have delivered just that. And at a time when the world needs escapism, there’s no better time for a new hero to step forward,” said Wayne Garvie, SPT’s president of international production.
Otto Farrant plays the lead role, with Brenock O’Connor, Stephen Dillane, Vicky McClure and Andrew Buchan co-starring. The adaptation is by Bafta-winning screenwriter Guy Burt (Bletchley Circle, The Borgias, The Hole).
Broadcaster EbonyLife TV is set to air the Nigerian version of US gameshow format The Dating Game soon and has a major sponsor attached.
The broadcaster recently signed a partnership with telecommunications company Airtel Nigeria that will see the company sponsor the show.
Airtel Nigeria’s chief commercial officer Dinesh Balsingh said: “I am pleased with the partnership with EbonyLife to deliver the maiden edition of The Dating Game Nigeria to the homes and smartphones of our esteemed telecoms consumers.
“Without a doubt, the vision of the show aligns with our philosophy of connecting people and Airtel will not relent in its quest of creating and supporting credible and exciting platforms that will further unite us as Nigerians.”
Anyone interested in taking part in the show can apply here.
The Dating Game is a TV reality show that offers single people a chance to find a suitable partner by pairing them up with who best suits them.
The series is being produced under licence from Sony Pictures Television and will start on EbonyLife TV before the end of the year. It will have its finale during the Valentine season in 2019.
EbonyLife TV is calling for entries for its adaptation of international television format The Dating Game.
In a post on Instagram, Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife TV, has said those interested can now apply to take part in The Dating Game Nigeria.
“If you’re looking for love, the wait is almost over. EbonyLife TV, in partnership with Sony Pictures Television [SPT], is pleased to announce that applications for Dating Game Nigeria are now open. This could be your chance to find the partner of your dreams,” she wrote.
In March, EbonyLife TV announced its plans to launch the first ever African adaptation of the show, in partnership with SPT, sometime this year.
The Dating Game offers single people a chance to find a suitable partner by pairing them up. The gameshow involves an individual asking three potential partners a series of questions and picking the one whose answers attract them the most.
The Dating Game (aka Blind Date) has been on air since the 1960s and is set to reach more audiences in Africa by launching on EbonyLife TV.
US talent show format The Sing-Off is set to be adapted in Nigeria after Montage Media Group acquired rights to the property from Sony Pictures Television (SPT).
The Sing-Off is an ‘a capella’ singing contest aired on NBC in the US between 2009 and 2014. It offers a platform for vocal groups to compete and showcase their skills with a chance to win a recording contract.
Bamidele Adetunji, CEO of Montage Media Group, said: “We are pleased to be in partnership with one of the biggest names in global media and entertainment business.
“As a responsible corporate, we are determined to bring the best of the world into the Sub-Saharan African market through our various content, production and technology collaborations to ensure the growth of the media and entertainment landscape, particularly in Nigeria; the nation that hosted the first television infrastructure in Africa.
“Talents and their discovery isn’t the problem in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, but the issue is what becomes of them after they’ve been discovered. Through this relationship, we want to nurture discovered talents and provide them with a global platform to thrive in an increasingly competitive media and entertainment landscape.”
John Rossiter, exec VP of distribution and networks, CEEMA at SPT, said: “We can’t wait to bring action-packed series The Sing-Off to African audiences and we look forward to strengthening our relationship with Montage to deliver many more exciting projects in the future.”
The Sing-Off began airing in the US, where it ran for five seasons on NBC, produced by SPT, Outlaw Productions and UA Media Group. It garnered nearly 10 million viewers before being adapted in countries such as China, France, the Netherlands and South Africa. It is produced and internationally distributed by SPT.
Montage Media Group is a media consultancy and investment company with a focus on delivering quality services in the pay TV, mobile TV and content acquisition and production.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Nigerian broadcaster and producer EbonyLife has linked up with Sony Pictures Television (SPT) to co-develop three scripted projects.
The three-project deal, the first of its kind between SPT and a Nigerian television company, will include a TV series inspired by the Dahomey Warriors.
The action series, based on true events in the West African Kingdom of Dahomey, will tell the story of the all-female warriors. Details of the two additional projects will follow later this year, with SPT set to distribute all three internationally.
Mo Abudu, CEO at EbonyLife, said the partnership would allow it “to bring the fascinating story of The Dahomey Warriors, and many others like it, to audiences around the world.”
Wayne Garvie, president of international production at SPT, said: “Our aim is to help EbonyLife create a portfolio of African content that will fulfil their aim of being one of Africa’s prime creators of premium content.”
EbonyLife TV launched in 2013 and produces over 1000 hours of original programming each year, 80% of which belongs exclusively to the network.
Last month, the broadcaster commissioned a local version of SPT’s relationship format The Dating Game. It has also picked up a raft of programming from distributor TVF and last year started production on Castle & Castle, which it claims to be Nigeria’s first legal drama series.
Lagos-based Ultima Studios has announced it will be producing the Nigerian adaption of TV gameshow Dragons’ Den, through a deal with Sony Pictures Television (SPT).
The Nigerian version will be called Lions’ Den. The format originated in Japan as Money Tigers before going on to be produced in 30 other countries, with names including Dragons’ Den, Shark Tank and Lions’ Den.
Contestants on the show pitch their business ideas to five entrepreneurial judges – called the Lions in the Nigerian version – who decide if their idea is profitable and worth investing in or not.
The pact continues Ultima’s relationship with SPT, as the two are already behind the Nigerian version of gameshow Who Wants to be a Millionaire? for the NTA network.
Ultima CEO Femi Ayeni told the press: “Ultima’s choice of Lions’ Den as its next venture is a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerians.
“The programme will not only provide exciting viewing for viewers at home but will also provide an opportunity for serious entrepreneurs to attract much-needed investment.
“Furthermore, as has been the case in all other countries where the show is running, it is not just the entrepreneurs but also the viewers at home that will benefit from the comments made by the Lions.”
Mark Young, SPT’s senior VP of distribution for the UK, Iberia and Africa, said: “Sony Pictures Television already has a fantastic and longstanding relationship with Ultima and we are thrilled to be working alongside them once more to bring Lions’ Den to Nigeria.