Learn from Nollywood—MultiChoice

Last week, Multichoice Africa hosted a group of journalists from across Africa to their annual media showcase event in Sandton, South Africa. The event was designed to provide a hint to their viewers on what they should expect in 2020 on their numerous platforms. Our reporter BRIAN ITAI attended the event and he caught up with the company’s chief executive officer for General Entertainment Loyiso Phahle. Excerpts:

Phahle: Nollywood is not just enjoyed by Nigerians

Q

: What is the purpose of this media showcase event?

A

: For us, it is important that our viewers are kept fully informed about our programming and all of the things that we are trying to do from the customer perspective to give them more value and help them enjoy fully what we are providing. So we invite the media because you guys are the people that talk to them and inform them what we have and what is actually going on. Things like TV listings, TV reviews, conducting interviews to find out from us what our plans are and that is basically why we are holding this event.

Q

: On the business point of view, how have you faired across the continent?

A

: Well, in terms of audiences and their enjoyment of what we broadcast, we know that people love the content. They enjoy the African Magic, in South Africa people love Mnet and Mzanzi Magic, in East Africa we have got Maisha Magic, Maisha Magic Bongo and we have got Zambezi Magic which is for the southern region of Africa. We know that people love our programmes. We have had around 240 million votes in the just ended Big Brother Nigeria show this year. That level of engagement is a clear indication that people enjoy the programming. But I think in Africa today, life is difficult for many people and the cost of living is high and for us it is really about how we continue to give people the programming and the entertainment, the news, the information and the sports that they love but in a way that provides them with really good value.

Q

: Your commitment to promote the development and telling of the African story cannot be contested. In Malawi the film industry is still trying to take its baby steps, what has been your level of engagement with Malawi filmmakers to try and give them a lift that they so much need at the moment?

A

: At this moment we do not have a dedicated channel for Malawi alone. We have the Zambezi Magic which is a channel that is enjoyed across Southern Africa. But we are always interested to hear from filmmakers from anywhere across the continent. So, if there is content that is available, if there are movies that viewers from across Africa would enjoy, we would love to see that and find out more.

Q: What does it require for them to make a breakthrough on any of the platforms that you are providing? Do they come to you or it is you who goes out searching for their content?

It is a combination of things. Obviously sometimes we are out and we try to find out about things and we work very hard to find out about what is going on. But we also have some instances that we are approached by people who have something that they think viewers would enjoy. So there isn’t one way to do it.

Q

: So on their part you think it would help if they showed the required aggression to market their content?

A

: The first step would actually be just to contact us. We have a team which looks after the various regional blocks that we have. It just requires communication with them to share and explain what kind of content is around and available that people may enjoy.

Q

: As somebody who has been involved in this field for some time, what would it take for the Malawian film industry to get to the level Nollywood for instance?

A

: Nollywood is a fantastic example of a group of filmmakers in the industry that have really gone out and in a way created their industry initially due to the demand that they created. The Nigerian people initially showed that they are just overjoyed and always enthusiastic to watch local stories with local actors and often produced in local languages. Through that demand, because people wanted it, they made something and put it out. In Nollywood, they started with DVDs and people were buying those DVDs. Through the sales of those DVDs the producers were able to go back and make more movies and ultimately now Nollywood is not just enjoyed by Nigerians but also people from all over Africa and in fact all over the world. It is now a global industry. It is about having that content proposition that there is an audience for and being able to create demand for your content because it will not only pay for what they really want.

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