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Embrace emerging business frontiers

Earlier in the year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya, in his monetary policy statement revealed that Zimbabwean subscribers to DStv had over the course of a year splurged US$206 million on the company’s viewer packages.

State of the Art with Admire Kudita

He was not alone in his dismay.

Sound and fury

Over the course of two years, various government and private players have gathered would-be independent television producers in a series of meetings across the country. The meetings revolved basically around solicitations for content from ZTV, Broadcasting Authority Zimbabwe, Zambezi Magic and recently, the newcomer Zimbabwe Newspapers Television.

The head of television, one Nomsa Nkala, was recently in Bulawayo to discuss her company’s vision, appealing to content producers. The meeting was held under the auspices of the Creative Economy Roundtable, organised by Nhimbe Trust. The reality is that we can do better, as far as our own local television programming is concerned. So far the exercises by the various players have not yieled much except in a few isolated cases such as the talk show Thatha Wena, among others.

Do more locally

Considering the amount that locals are spending on subscriptions for Multichoice’s content, it is fair for local producers to expect deeper investment in local productions.

Somehow, this is yet to happen. I imagine that at this point Zimbabwe does not seem like the best place for investing money in to outsiders given the monetary situation. But it should be, clearly . . .
Giving back

That aside, Zimbabwe is teeming with bankable stories. There must be a way around the issue of getting money to the hands of television producers who meet the company’s grade. I would recommend that government could perhaps insist that a percentage of the revenues from the company goes towards a special fund to support independent producers.

I believe that is a fair deal from a corporate social responsibility perspective.

I recommend 2%. The deal can benefit them downstream, with quality and well-funded productions to which they have the right of first refusal. More importantly, companies that trade in communities need to look beyond mere profits or window-dressing. We appreciate their current efforts toward sport.

Video-on-demand service

Netflix, an American company, is now offering a free month’s service on sign-up and one will need credit card details or a PayPal account to be opted in.

The company is responsible for the creation and production of television series such as the gripping House of Cards (a series based on a fictitious Washington insider who rises to become US president).

The cheapest package is pegged at US$7,99 a month and the premium package is set at US$11,99.

Recently, iflix, another subscription video-on-demand service provider, announced the launch of iFlix Africa to bring its world-class service to sub-Saharan Africa. iflix Africa will be headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa and trade commercially as “iflix”.

According to a press statement from the company, “launches are planned in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. iflix Africa will increase iflix’s global footprint to 23 territories worldwide, with additional regional markets to be added in the coming months.”

The commercial launch of iflix’s subscription video on demand (VoD) service across sub-Saharan Africa is scheduled over the second and third quarter of 2017, and will make iflix’s vast catalogue of thousands of TV shows, movies and more, including many first run exclusives and award-winning programmes available to hundreds of millions of consumers across the region.

In addition to having the best of Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood and other regional and local programming, the service will additionally offer an extensive collection of highly-acclaimed African shows and movies with iflix Africa planning to introduce exclusive African content series.

Let competition exist

Iflix’s entry into the market implies serious competition for the various pay TV and VOD services that have been invading the African market.

Zimbabwean players set to feel the heat because of iFlix include Netflix and DStv. Kwesé Television from Econet Wireless and ipidi TV from Liquid Telecom are yet to access the Zimbabwean market. iFlix is offering its services at US$4,99 monthly.

Consumers can only benefit from the bone fight that is set to ensue. Monopolies breed complacency inadvertently.

Zimbabwe television has been in the doldrums for a long time because of the lethargy that is concomitant with monopolies. Competition is good for keeping businesses on their toes. In fact, it is the bigger malady of the African socio-political environment.

An African player

Last year, Nigerian-based entertainment and internet TV platform IRoko announced the signing of multiple deals totaling US$19 million for content development and capital funding from Kinnevik AB, its existing investor and French media giant Canal+.

The funding is intended to upscale its operations and expand aggressively across the continent
In a statement released at the time, Jason Njoku, a thirty-something Chemistry graduate — chief executive and co-founder of iRoko said: “The challenges surrounding mobile TV in Africa are mighty, but not insurmountable.

It is human to be entertained and connect over community and we are obsessed with creating Africa’s largest community around local content.

We have always been crazily bold in our ambitions to bring the content closer to viewers and build a truly frictionless and inclusive entertainment experience. Today’s news improves those odds.”

Tech intersection

My analysis is that with the close to one billion mobile phone subscriptions in Africa, content aggregators such as Iflix and iRoko are poised to mine a serious goldfield. I find it heartwarming that an African player has risen to the challenge being presented by the global players.

Nollywood is the world’s second-largest film industry in terms of output. It reportedly employs one million people and constitutes 1,04% of Nigeria’s GDP. Nigerians have been enjoying considerable success in terms of its creative sector.

Nigeria’s film industry is prolifically producing close to 50 films a week or more than 1 200 films a year. It surpasses Hollywood in volume terms and is set to match or better Bollywood in India, which overtook the US as the largest film producer in the 1970s.

Zimbabwe can only learn and piggyback on what others are doing. Here is a call to local techpreneurs to ride this wave. Personal communication gadgets present a new business frontier.

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