All posts by John Winfield

Nigeria ready to complete DSO process

The federal government of Nigeria is gearing up to conclude the nationwide digital switchover (DSO) process.

Lai Mohammed

A 13-member ministerial task force has been assembled to handle the conclusion of the DSO process across the country.

As well as information and culture minister Lai Mohammed, members of the task force include Armstrong Idachaba of the National Broadcasting Commission, Edward Amana and Tunde Adegbola of government DSO body Digiteam, and Hajia Sa’s Ibrahim of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria.

Mohammed said that with the release of about N9.4bn (US$24.6m) by the federal government for the conclusion of the DSO process, there should be no excuse by the ministerial committee for not swiftly rolling out DSO across the country.

“We have studied the trend and it is clear that we have to reduce government involvement in the DSO ecosystem and allow the private sector to take the lead, on purely commercial terms,” Mohammed said.

“With the devastating effects of Covid-19 and the fall in government revenues, the federal government can no longer afford to subsidise the programme, especially set-top-boxes and signal carriage, which ordinarily can and should be highly competitive commercial ventures.”

Mohammed continued: “In order to begin the commercialisation of DSO, we need to create a structure and an ecosystem that is self-sufficient, self-reliant and able to generate revenue that will drive strategic growth in key areas. The details of that structure are for the task force to explore.

“My decision to set up the ministerial task force to drive the DSO process is hinged on the fact that a successful digital switchover is a massive job creator and a huge revenue generator. This process is capable of creating over one million jobs over the next three years.”

According to Vanguard Nigeria, the minister broke down the jobs that could be created by the DSO into the manufacturing sector (between 40,000 and 50,000 jobs), television production (over 200,000 jobs), film production (between 350,000 and 400,000 jobs), distribution (over 100,000 jobs), television and online advertising (about 50,000 jobs), as well as others.

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Lupita Nyong’o book set for Netflix

Lupita Nyong’o in hit Marvel movie Black Panther

A children’s book written by Hollywood actor Lupita Nyong’o is being adapted as an animated musical film for global streaming platform Netflix.

Sulwe is a children’s picture book about a young girl who wishes for her dark skin to be lighter. The story is about colourism and learning to love oneself regardless of skin tone.

Announcing the news on Instagram, Black Panther and Us star Nyong’o wrote: “Sulwe is going to be an animated movie!! Thank you to the readers of all ages who have joined Sulwe on her starry ride. I’m so excited for this next adventure on Netflix.”

Speaking to Variety, the Kenyan-Mexican actor added: “The story of Sulwe is one that is very close to my heart. Growing up, I was uncomfortable in my dark skin. I rarely saw anyone who looked like me in the aspirational pages of books and magazines, or even on TV. It was a long journey for me to arrive at self-love.

“Sulwe is a mirror for dark-skinned children to see themselves, a window for those who may not be familiar with colourism, to have understanding and empathy, and an invitation for all who feel different and unseen to recognise their innate beauty and value. I am thrilled that the book is being adapted into an animated musical that we hope inspires children all around the world to celebrate their uniqueness.”

Sulwe has been featured on Netflix’s original show Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices, in which Nyong’o read from her book. The release date of the animated adaptation on Netflix has not yet been revealed.

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Manchester United links with StarTimes

L-R: Manchester United stars Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes

English football club Manchester United has partnered with pay TV operator StarTimes to show its MUTV channel across sub-Saharan Africa.

Exclusive MUTV content ranging from academy games, live press conferences, player interviews, award-winning documentaries and news will be distributed in over 30 African countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana, through various StarTimes platforms.

Phil Lynch, CEO of media at Man Utd, said: “We are proud to have hundreds of millions of passionate fans in Africa, and this long-term agreement will allow them to get closer to the club through MUTV’s exclusive, round-the-clock content from Old Trafford and the Aon Training Complex.

“MUTV is one of our most important channels for engaging with fans around the world, whether through linear or direct-to-consumer streaming platforms, and we are excited to be significantly increasing its reach through our new partner, StarTimes, in Africa.”

Kristen Miao, sports deputy director at StarTimes, added: “Manchester United is one of the most iconic football clubs in the world. We are delighted to share MUTV with football fans across Africa as part as our commitment to enhancing our subscribers’ experience.”

Chinese-owned StarTimes has 13 million subscribers through its DVB digital TV service and 20 million users of its OTT streaming service throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

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Loyiso Gola stands up on Netflix

Netflix will premiere a stand-up special from International Emmy-nominated South African comedian Loyiso Gola next month.

Loyiso Gola

Filmed in Cape Town, Unlearning will become available on March 23. In the special, Gola discusses his experience of maturity and masculinity during apartheid in South Africa, according to Okay Africa.

Gola’s stand-up show was recorded in one of South Africa’s grandest art galleries, Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town.

“The special communicates grand ideas, which is what art is: an artist uses a framework or method to express an idea,” Gola told Okay Africa. “When you read about artwork, you get to understand that. I’m trying to communicate ideas with which I’ve grappled. I consider Unlearning as a special piece of art.

“I’ve been doing stand-up for 20 years since I was 17 years old. I’ve always maintained I have to be honest with myself. I don’t talk about what I think will be funny; I talk about what I find funny. I have peculiar ideas when it comes to my comedy. Then I think about how I can make it accessible to an ordinary human being. I communicate the crazy idea of unlearning but everyone gets it.”

On Instagram, he added: “Happy and humble to announce that my Netflix special Unlearning is coming out 23 March. It will be Netflix‘s first African Stand Up Original. Oh, what a feeling.”

Gola won the South African Comedy Award for Best Breakthrough Comedy Act in 2007 and The Savanna SA Comic’s Choice Award – Comic of the Year Award in 2014.

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Showmax visits Temptation Island

Temptation Island SA is being produced by Afrokaans Film & Television

MultiChoice Group-owned South African SVoD service Showmax has commissioned a local version of Banijay dating format Temptation Island.

The 12-part first season will be Showmax’s first adaptation of an international format and is being produced by local outfit Afrokaans Film & Television.

Afrokaans also produces the South African version of Banijay’s adventure reality format Survivor, which is due to air its eighth season this summer.

Twenty-five local adaptations of Temptation Island have aired to date, in countries including Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and the US, where the third season will premiere on USA Network this week.

The format sees four new couples heading to a luxury resort where they are joined by 24 single men and women looking to find everlasting love. The couples must decide whether to commit to each other or if they will ultimately give in to the temptation from the singles.

Banijay Rights handles international distribution for both the format and finished tape of the show.

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Streamers are ‘existential threat’ to DStv

International OTT services like Netflix and Disney+ pose an “existential competitive threat” to DStv, according to the pay TV service’s operator, MultiChoice.

The warning came during MultiChoice’s presentation at the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA)’s recent inquiry into the subscription TV broadcasting services market in South Africa.

Noting that international OTT operators are its biggest competitors, the pay TV company said: “Currently, competition is fierce and will continue to grow rapidly and in a disruptive way. We consider providers like Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, HBO Now and Peacock to be an existential competitive threat.”

MultiChoice also debunked the idea suggested by ICASA that the company is somewhat protected from these streaming platforms because many South Africans still suffer from a considerable broadband deficit and would not be able to access such platforms, and thus still rely mostly on DStv services.

Commenting on ICASA’s draft findings, MultiChoice said the assertion that good-quality broadband access is limited and expensive in South Africa is not true. It argued that broadband access is already sufficiently widespread for DStv viewers to switch to OTT on a massive scale.

The Naspers-owned company backed up its claim by highlighting that three-quarters of DStv subscribers already watch TV on other devices, which means they have sufficient broadband for streaming.

“OTT entrants follow a powerful and competitive business model that is reshaping the competitive landscape and we are directly affected by growing competition from Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services,” MultiChoice said.

“This is seen in the sharp decline in premium subscriptions. The four largest DStv bouquets across all levels have seen significant falls in real prices in the last three years. Strangling MultiChoice does not guarantee access to rights and will impact other licencees, jeopardise jobs, erode the tax base and cause harm, with no benefits to the country.”

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Pan African Film & Arts Festival goes online

The 29th edition of the Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) will take place online this year instead of as a live event in its usual location in LA in the US.

Held from February 28 to March 14, the event’s organisers describe it as the largest black film festival in the US.

The PAFF is aimed at showcasing work that highlights the diverse stories of black America, Africa and the global black diaspora, and especially that which reinforces positive images.

Themed Evolution, this year’s virtual event came about in response to Covid-19, which has compelled the film and entertainment industry to use technology in creative ways. According to the organisers, this response to the global pandemic and consumer trends has led to PAFF’s new digital incarnation.

Out of over 900 submissions from 83 countries, the event will feature over 200 films, including 168 narrative films, 39 documentaries and 159 short and mini films from 45 countries and in 43 languages.

The official selections include Nigerian filmmaker Akinola Davies’ short tiled Lizard, a story about an eight-year-old girl with an ability to sense danger; Kapana, directed by Philippe Talavera, about gay relationships in Namibia; Jammal Ibrahim’s Pause, a short film inspired by the coronavirus; and animated short The Power of Hope, directed by Kalia Love Jones and inspired by a Michelle Obama speech.

Also selected are The Milkmaid by Desmond Ovbiagele, a story of two sisters who are abducted from their village in northeast Nigeria; and The Moon & Me, a short film by Igbo-Australian writer and director Kalu Oji that is described as a magical realist drama set in suburban Australian.

There will be juried prizes for Best Narrative Feature, Best First Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short and Best Narrative Short, among other awards.

Established in 1992, PAFF is dedicated to the promotion of cultural understanding among people of African descent. It is also the largest Black History Month event in the US in the month of February.

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TNT Africa lines up new content

WarnerMedia-owned regional pay TV broadcaster TNT Africa is set to refresh its channels by introducing a slate of shows tailor-made for African audiences.

Guillermo Farré

As part of its new line-up, it will debut a weekly show from US-based pro wrestling organisation All Elite Wrestling (AEW) called AEW Dynamite. It will launch on February 5 at 13.20 (CAT).

Elsewhere, the slate features a mixture of action, romance and comedy films, including Splash, Best Man Holiday, Crank: High Voltage, Point Break, Malcolm X, Just Cause, ET, Gladiator, Straight Up and other TNT original movies.

Guillermo Farré, head of WarnerMedia’s general entertainment channels across France, Iberia and Africa, said: “TNT is excited to usher in a new era in entertainment that is attuned to our audience needs and appetite.

“Despite how far we’ve come, we remain steadfastly dedicated to giving our African audience premium content, and the launch of AEW Dynamite and the channel refresh bear testament of this.”

TNT Africa airs on DStv Channel 137. The refresh also includes a new logo.

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Showmax, MTN Nigeria in mobile data deal

MultiChoice-owned VoD service Showmax and the Nigerian arm of South African telco MTN have partnered to launch a data deal for mobile users.

Srinivas Rao

The offer will give subscribers access to Showmax’s full catalogue on a data-enabled mobile device. Content available includes Nigerian series and movies from Africa Magic such as telenovelas Riona and Enakhe and new seasons of Date My Family, Unmarried and My Siblings & I.

Also included in the offer are all Premier League, Serie A and La Liga football matches, plus a wide range of live sport from SuperSport including boxing and athletics.

Srinivas Rao, chief digital officer at MTN Nigeria, said: “Keeping up with our digitally savvy, always-on-the-go customers is an exciting challenge that is made easier with partners like Showmax. This alliance could not have come at a better time.”

Yolisa Phahle, CEO for general entertainment and connected video at MultiChoice Group, added: “Mobile streaming is an important consideration throughout Africa, which is why Showmax offers mobile-only versions of Showmax subscriptions. We’re proud to have an extensive collection of the continent’s most-loved original African content to share with MTN’s customers and to introduce them to the world of streaming on Showmax.”

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MTF selects 12 interns for writing incubator

Pan-African networking platform MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) has selected 12 young South Africans to take part in the MTF South Africa Scriptwriting Incubator programme, aimed at finding the next generation of storytellers.

The 12 participants are Florence Rapeu, Khanyani Luhlongwane, Lesedi Phaahla, Lia Mokesi, Melody Ngomane, Nokuphila Dlamini, Nompumelelo Gumede, Pitsi Mohaya, Rebaone Lobelo, Thato Sekhoto, Tshegofatso Nwkane and Thembakuye Madlala.

Set to begin in February, the programme will see the interns mentored by Phathutshedzo Makwarela and Gwydion Beynon of Tshedza Pictures. The screenwriters are behind International Emmy-nominated telenovela The River as well as SA hits Giyani: Land of Blood, The Republic and Legacy.

Over the course of 12 months, the interns will engage in both virtual and physical sessions of structured learning with the Wits University Film & Television Department and will gain practical workplace experience.

They will also be developed by being integrated into the writing rooms of some of the country’s hottest dramas and telenovelas and by delving into the theoretical components of scriptwriting with Wits University. They will ultimately develop a script for at least one series pilot episode and will have the chance to pitch an idea for a first episode to MultiChoice channels M-Net and Mzansi Magic.

Joe Heshu, group executive for corporate affairs at MultiChoice, said: “We’re rooted in the countries and communities in which we operate and committed to building skills in various fields, but particularly in the television and film industry.

“The MTFza Scriptwriting Incubator aims to unearth the next generation of fiercely creative, committed storytellers and is the next step in entrenching our role as Africa’s most-loved storyteller and helping us take more African stories to the world. We are piloting the programme in South Africa this year, before expanding it into our other three MTF Academies soon”.

The MTF is designed to provide the African creative industry with a platform to learn, develop their talent, engage and connect with each other through their shared passions. It has trained 132 students over the last five years in its academies located in Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and South Africa.

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WatsUp TV partners Sony Music

Ghana-based pan-African entertainment channel WatsUp TV has partnered with Sony Music to promote musical artists from across the continent.

ABD Traore

Through the collaboration, WatsUp TV will use its platforms in multiple African countries to promote Ghanaian and other African artists and their work to new audiences.

Watsup TV CEO ABD Traore said: “The deal with Sony Music will give a big push to the works WatsUp TV has embarked on over the years to promote pan-African music content and distribute it across the continent and beyond. Talent affiliated to Sony Music will also get the opportunity to market their work and have the African continent appreciate their craft.”

Jim Donnett, head of PR for Sony Music West Africa, added: “A key component of our operations as a music company is storytelling, and we are confident in WatsUp TV’s ability to help us achieve this objective by reason of their influential status in pan-African entertainment and the many products and networks they have established to support the function of informing audiences far and wide.

“Sony Music will help bridge the gap between the grassroots and the overseas. We are implementing systems in coalition with regulatory bodies, DSPs, telcos, people in fintech, and the media to propound solutions that will contribute to changing the behaviour and pattern of response to product creation, marketing and consumption using home-derived formulas.

“Sony Music’s support will be coming in different tiers and it is expected to create opportunities for African musicians to level up in terms of music cred and brand representation with their colleagues from Western shores.”

WatsUp TV is a 24-hour digital entertainment television channel made for the pan-African bilingual community. Its content airs on various TV channels across Africa through a partnership with France-based satellite TV provider Canal+.

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Showmax adds pop-up channels

MultiChoice-owned VoD service Showmax has added two pop-up channels that will be available until the end of March.

Yolisa Phahle

The addition of kykNET and Mzansi Magic will give Showmax users who don’t have access to the two DStv channels the ability to view them 24 hours a day.

MultiChoice Group CEO for general entertainment and connected video Yolisa Phahle said: “We’re always looking at ways of making the Showmax experience better for our customers.

“During last year’s lockdown, we gave subscribers access to live news channels. Now, following this month’s presidential address, South Africans will continue to spend more time at home, and so, once again, we’d like to make sure our customers have something extra.”

While Mzansi Magic is exclusive to South Africa, kykNET will be available to subscribers in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The live streams will be available on all Showmax packages including Showmax, Showmax Mobile, Showmax Pro and Showmax Pro Mobile.

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Mzansi Magic debuts Abandoned

M-Net-owned South African network Mzansi Magic has launched a new reality show called Abandoned.

Phumeza Mdabe

The 13-part show helps orphans who were abandoned as toddlers to track down their family members. It also grants those who gave up their children an opportunity to find and reconnect with their offspring.

It is hosted by actor and TV presenter Phumeza Mdabe, who helps the people featured on the show to find those they are looking for.

Nomsa Philiso, director of local entertainment channels at M-Net, said: “As part of our exciting list of brand-new shows in the new year, Mzansi Magic will bring you reality TV that will take you on an emotional roller coaster, one that invites viewers on a journey that will also help them find a place of solace through relatable content.

“Every week, the show will tackle different dynamics and help the abandoned children ask questions like: did my mother or father love me? How do they go to bed knowing that I am out there? Did they ever try to find me? How will my life change when I find them?”

Abandoned airs every Tuesday at 20.00 on Mzansi Magic, DStv channel 161.

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Casting call for SA’s Ugly Betty

An open casting call has been issued for the forthcoming South African adaptation of Latin American comedy-drama format Yo Soy Betty la Fea (aka Ugly Betty).

Ugly Betty

The series, the first Ugly Betty adaptation that will feature a black lead, is looking for a young black woman in South Africa aged between 22 and 26 to play main character Bettina Sikhakane. According to the call, the actress should be able to portray the ‘before’ look prior to the character’s makeover as well as the ‘after’ look.

In addition, the producers are also looking for Dingaan, a main character and a love interest of Bettina who must be a black actor between the age of 27 and 30. A black actress between the ages of 52 and 56 is also being sought for Dingaan’s mother.

South Africa’s version of the show, titled uBettina Wethu, follows the journey of a wholesome and intelligent but gawky people-pleaser with a dated, unsophisticated sense of style who finds her self-worth and image challenged when she is hired by a brand management company.

Bettina Sikhakane is described as a “kind-hearted, smart, career-focused woman with a dream of running her own company, but… she has to contend with her colleagues’ assumption that, because of her quirky style and kindness, she must be stupid.”

The casting process will involve a public vote to narrow down the search to the top three actors for each role, after which a closed audition process will determine the final choice.

Interested parties can access the script at ubettinawethu.co.za. The must then send a video of themselves performing one of the parts to the WhatsApp number 087 240 5150.

The show is being coproduced for South African public broadcaster SABC by boutique Johannesburg studio Known Associates Entertainment (KAE) and Cape Town production services company Moonlighting Films. It is being supported by South Africa’s Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and PCCW-backed OTT service VIU Africa.

Ryan Solovei, country manager for VIU Africa, said: “These public auditions are an exciting and appropriate way for us to welcome uBettina Wethu into our lives and onto our screens. This production is already capped with many firsts and, for VIU, it echoes our commitment to developing local productions and unearthing local talent in South Africa.

“We’re excited to see the entries and the final outcome for the three main characters of the story, and we look forward to the public’s participation as they have their say in who get to be the next big stars of Mzansi.”

KAE CEO and show producer Tshepiso Sello added: “The social climate in which we find ourselves necessitates a coming-of-age story with a twist. It is meant to allow the audience the chance to see themselves in the characters of the story – to not only root for their success or downfall but also to see the characters as an extension of themselves.

“The road to achieving this starts with finding the right talent. By engaging the public, we want our audiences to feel part and parcel of the show from the onset of our production process before it even hits their screens.”

The show is set to debut in April 2021.

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Yvonne Orji developing Disney+ show

Nigerian actor Yvonne Orji is working on an autobiographical comedy series for Disney+ with British-born Nigerian-American actor David Oyelowo and Oscar-winning TV personality Oprah Winfrey.

Yvonne Orji

Half-hour show First Gen is in development at Disney+ and is based on Orji’s experiences growing up as a Nigerian immigrant in the US. It follows a child caught between trying to honour her parents and culture and attempting to assimilate into American life.

The show is written by Orji and executive produced with Winfrey’s prodco Harpo Productions and Carla Gardini and Oyelowo via his Yoruba Saxon Productions. 20th Television is the studio.

Orji took to Instagram to express her excitement about the deal, saying: “Thank you David Oyelowo for believing in the dream from JUMP and Lady Oprah for coming on board as our fairy godmother. I’ve been very vocal about my desire to highlight stories from the continent and I’m grateful to have this opportunity to do so.”

Orji is best known for her role as Molly in hit HBO series Insecure, which is set to end after its fifth season. She was nominated for an Emmy for best supporting actress in a comedy for the show in 2020. Orji is repped by UTA, Odenkirk Provissiero and Del Shaw Moonves.

Oyelowo is currently in production on an as-yet-untitled murder mystery thriller with Searchlight Pictures, in which he stars alongside Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell. Winfrey, meanwhile, is an iconic talkshow host, media mogul via her joint-venture channel OWN with Discovery, and a prolific producer via Harpo.

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African OTT revenues tipped to top $1.7bn

Revenue from OTT platforms in Africa is expected to more than quadruple in the next five years, according to a report by UK-based analysis firm Digital TV Research.

The report, titled Africa OTT TV & Video Forecasts, predicts revenue from movies and TV series on OTT platforms in Africa will reach US$1.7bn by 2026, up from US$392m in 2020.

SVoD platforms will be the main revenue driver by a long way, bringing in US$1.5bn of the total, up from US$299m last year.

Netflix accounted for 57% of Africa’s SVoD subscriptions by end-2020 with almost two million subscribers. This figure is expected to more than triple to 6.3 million by 2026.

Disney+ will not launch in Africa until 2022 but is predicted to attract 3.1 million subscribers by 2026, making it the second-highest performer in terms of subscriptions.

In third place is local player Showmax, which at end-2020 had 668,000 subscribers and is forecast to reach two million by 2026.

Meanwhile, the report predicts Amazon Prime Video will see subscriber numbers increase to 689,000 in the next five years, up from 130,000 at the end of 2020, while Canal+’s local streamer MyCanal, which launches in Africa this year, is expected to have 622,000 subscribers by 2026.

Apple TV+, which launched in Africa late last year, is predicted to experience subscription growth from 9,000 at end-2020 to 136,000 by 2026.

Other SVoD platforms will see their combined subscriptions grow to 1.4 million by 2026 from 716,000 at the end of 2020, according to Digital TV Research.

By nation, South Africa will contribute a third of the region’s OTT revenue by 2026, with Nigeria bringing in a further fifth.

Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research, said: “Regional players Showmax and MyCanal have upped their game in face of this added competition. Both of these platforms have sister pay TV companies. However, the SVoD platforms are emerging in their own right.”

This article originally appeared on Content Nigeria sister site C21media.net

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Mondia brings Monsooq to Nigeria

UAE-based mobile technology company Mondia Media has launched its entertainment platform Monsooq in Nigeria.

Amadeo Rahmann

Nigeria is the second country to get Monsooq following its  recent launch in South Africa.

Monsooq users pay only for the time they spend consuming content, with customers buying entertainment time just as they would mobile airtime. The service offers movies, sports, educational content, books, series, games and music.

Mondia Group CEO Amadeo Rahmann described Nigeria as a great local content hub for Africa, with its media and entertainment industry (aka Nollywood) providing world-class content.

“Nigeria is currently the second largest film producer in the world in terms of the number of movies. The local industry employs about one million people and generates over US$7bn for the economy, and it is exciting to help provide another platform for this content,” he said.

“Africa is the next frontier in regard to digitisation. Our extensive footprint, increasing customer base and significant experience in the region make Africa a natural choice of focus for us. African markets, especially Nigeria with its large population and growth of digital streaming services, are primed for the democratisation of content.”

Adding that Mondia “is firmly focused on changing the way people consume entertainment,” Rahmann continued: “We have incredible reach and deep understanding of the geographies in which we operate, with over 1.4 billion potential users in these countries.

“Covid-19 has had such a dramatic impact on economies globally, deeply affecting consumers’ disposable income. We believe the Monsooq model is reflective of the changed financial situation of consumers while bringing much-needed entertainment during these difficult times.”

Mondia also highlighted PwC South Africa research from 2019 that showed entertainment and media spend in Nigeria jumped 25.5% in 2017 to US$3.8bn.

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African toon Iwájú to debut on Disney+

Iwájú comes from Tolu Olowofoyeku, Hami Ibrahim and Fikayo Adeola

African animated series Iwájú is set to debut on streaming platform Disney+ in 2022.

The series was developed by Nigerian comic artists Tolu Olowofoyeku, Hami Ibrahim and Fikayo Adeola and is a collaboration between pan-African comic book company Kugali Media and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

According to its producers, Iwájú, which means ‘the future’ in the Yoruba language, tells stories about the African continent and its history, embracing the present and also imagining its future

Set in Lagos, the sci-fi series will explore themes of class, innocence and challenging norms.

Director Ziki Nelson said: “It will combine Disney’s magic and animation expertise with Kugali’s fire and storytelling authenticity. Iwájú represents a personal childhood dream of mine to tell my story and that of my people.”

Walt Disney Animation Studios chief creative officer Jennifer Lee added: “We found Kugali comics from a BBC article highlighting the talented comic book artists. Their dream is to bring African stories created by African artists to the world, highlighting the diversity of cultures, histories and voices across the continent.

“Their talents as storytellers blew us away. I’m proud to announce the first-of-its-kind collaboration to bring original longform series to Disney+.”

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SA’s Uzalo extended to 2023

Uzalo comes from Stained Glass Production

The producer of South African soap opera Uzalo has signed a three-year deal with South African public television channel SABC1 that will see the show remain on air until at least 2023.

The deal will help improve the quality and storylines of the Stained Glass Production series, which some viewers have said have become boring, according to the broadcaster.

Uzalo, which is jointly owned by creators Kobedi ‘Pepsi’ Pokane and Gugu Zuma-Ncube, will begin production of its new season during the first week of January ahead of returning to screens in March.

“Production halted as part of its annual break and was to resume on 18 November 2020. However, due to the contracting process taking longer than anticipated, production has extended its break and will resume the first week of January 2020,” Stained Glass Production said.

SABC executives have previously expressed dissatisfaction with some of Uzalo’s storylines, described by viewers as boring and recycled, while Uzalo cast and crew members have complained about inadequate pay.

However, in a statement on the new deal, SABC said: “It is the first time that such a long-term arrangement has been put in place and it represents an unequivocal vote of confidence that we place in the series.”

SABC added that the long-term deal would provide the production team ample time to invest more in storyline workshopping to produce more powerful plots and improve the overall quality of the show.

Sane Zondi, SABC1 programme manager, added: “Uzalo has earned [the renewal] and its performance speaks for itself. The property has broken a set of records in the industry for a soap or long-running series. It’s the youngest entry in the SABC stable and it is phenomenal what the property has managed to achieve despite the challenges this year has shown – not only in the broadcasting landscape but the country as a whole.

Uzalo was forced off air for five weeks this year after it ran out of episodes because of production issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has nevertheless remained the country and SABC1’s most-watched TV series, with 8.8 million viewers (22.75 AR) during October and around four million viewers watching Uzalo on SABC1 via MultiChoice’s DStv satellite pay TV service.

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South Africa to re-enter Shark Tank

The South African version of business-focused reality format Shark Tank is set to return for a second season four years on from its debut in the country.

Quinton van der Burgh

Produced in partnership with pan-African investment company Beryl Group, the show will begin filming in early 2021. A broadcaster has yet to be confirmed.

In the format, which originated in Japan as Dragons’ Den and has been adapted around the world, entrepreneurs pitch their business to a panel of potential investors (‘Dragons’/’Sharks’), who decide whether they want to offer financial backing.

The new season of the South African version will feature diverse range of Sharks, from self-made multimillionaires to billionaire tycoons. They are: South African billionaire and reality TV star Quinton van der Burgh of Quinton Van Der Burgh Investments; UN Global Award honouree and entrepreneur Jasmine Pega; Lebo Gunguluza, serial entrepreneur and chairman of the Gem group of companies; tech entrepreneur Prashanthi Akaloo; and a fifth investor who will be revealed soon.

Beryl Group chairman Neverl Kambasha said: “We have been investing in entrepreneurs for a significant amount of time. There’s no doubt that Africa is the next frontier, and with that, the driving force of changing the economic landscape on the continent will be entrepreneurs.

“The possibilities of unearthing innovation, creativity and uncovering the next big thing are endless, hence we deemed it necessary to further invest in entrepreneurship. We look forward to seeing potential unleashed.”

Van der Burgh added: “We have just come out of a very tough year and there are a lot of people looking to recreate themselves. There are a lot of innovative ideas that will come out in the new era.”

The first season of Shark Tank SA was produced by BBC-backed production company Rapid Blue for M-Net in 2016.

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