Amazon to cut investment in Africa, MENA

By Content Nigeria reporter
January 19, 2024

Gangs of Lagos

Amazon Prime Video is set to reduce its investment in originals from the Middle East and Africa and instead focus on European territories, as part of a strategy to “rebalance and pivot” its resources amid broader cuts across the business.

With the change in strategy, Prime Video will cease ordering new shows from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa and make job cuts.

However, shows that had already been commissioned across the regions, including the Ebuka Turns Up Africa and the South African version of the LOL franchise, will still be released.

Staffers were notified of the changes by Prime Video’s VP and general manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Barry Furlong.

“We’ve been carefully looking at our business to ensure we continue to prioritise our resources on what matters most to customers,” he said.

“I have carefully evaluated our structure in the region and decided to make some adjustments to our operating model to rebalance and pivot our resources to focus on the areas that drive the highest impact and long-term success.”

Among the changes revealed on Thursday, the European team will be split into two regions of focus.

The first team, EU Established, will focus on the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and France and will be led by country MD for France Brigitte Ricou-Bellan.

The second, EU Emerging, will concentrate on expanding Prime Video’s presence in the Nordics, Benelux and Central and Eastern Europe, with Ritchie Ordonez, director of Benelux, CEE and Turkey, leading the team. Both of these European teams will report to Furlong.

Prime Video also plans to create a new role, director of EU content and programming strategy, that will work with the US and international teams on projects coming from Amazon MGM Studios.

“I have listened and considered the feedback received across the teams over the past 12 months. I believe these changes will improve the operational running of our multi-territory business and allow us to be more agile and focused,” added Furlong.

Over the past two years, Amazon Studios has touted grand expansion goals in Africa, with execs speaking of plans to begin producing originals in more countries.

At Mipcom in October, Ned Mitchell, who serves as head of African and Middle East originals for Amazon MGM Studios, discussed the tech giant’s “long-term commitment” to the region on the back of original films like Nigerian crime thriller Gangs of Lagos and drama Breath of Life.

While the company’s African originals strategy has primarily been focused on Nigeria and South Africa, Mitchell said the goal was to expand into other African countries, though he would not be drawn on where it was looking next.

“Africa is so huge; we wouldn’t dare paint it with a single brush. It’s hundreds of languages and dialects, cultures and belief systems, so for us, Nigeria and South Africa are a great fertile place to start and to really build our home for talent,” he said in Cannes.

“We’re hard at work building a pretty large slate of originals, and we also have great stuff coming into Prime Video through licensing routes as well.”

The cutbacks in Africa and the Middle East are taking place amid wider restructuring and lay-offs at Amazon MGM Studios and Prime Video.

Last week, the company made a significant number of job cuts in the US when it consolidated three MGM departments – MGM Scripted, MGM Alternative and MGM+ Productions – into a single unit, in addition to cutting its South-east Asia originals team.

Prior to that, Mike Hopkins, senior VP at Prime Video and Amazon MGM Studios, said the company would axe “several hundred” positions across Prime Video and MGM Studios after a year-long review of its video and streaming operations.