With Video on Demand, filmmakers and creatives now have a broader channel to create and deliver content to a ready audience around the globe. Video On Demand (VoD) or Audio and Video on Demand (AVoD), a system which allows users to select and watch/listen to video or audio content online, has been springing up within the continent. This service is tailored to offer an avenue for both indie and professionally created content to be freely distributed.
VoD services aren’t new. A popular example of this is YouTube – the video sharing platform that allows users upload and view videos, accessible in Nigeria and other African countries. YouTube only supports free content but content providers can make money via advertising or selling secondary products on another portal or offline. But Africa is not to be outdone in the VoD game.
The African VoD contenders
iROKOTV (irokotv.com), a Nigerian owned VoD, started off by gaining prominence from YouTube before setting up an independent portal. Now, iROKOTV is making Nollywood movies available to the world with both premium and free content
Afrinolly is also leveraging on YouTube as a platform for aggregating content – from music videos to comedy, trailers and full length movies. Afrinolly is a mobile app available on Nokia, BlackBerry, and Android devices and has seen exponential growth by going into partnership with MTNNigeria. They have also partnered with Google, Blackberry, iRep and Goethe Institute to host a competition that has two categories for creatives – short film and documentary categories. Speaking on why they are holding this competition, the CEO of Afrinolly says, “The initiative is a video-based competition targeted at developing filmmakers and documentary/animation content creators.” They are targeting mobile connected users spread across the continent.
Another such service is BuniTV, based in Kenya. “Buni TV makes it easy for viewers to discover some of the most surprising, thought provoking and enjoyable video content that only insiders know about”, says BalancingAct Africa. A variety of content is available on their portal and Mark Kaigwa, a film director and producer, has a short film that has recently been added to the BuniTV platform.
Just as we thought we had seen enough, we heard about the South Africa based Wabona. Wabona, home of African films, documentary and television shows, is putting together old content that no longer show on TV along with new and exciting ones. Unlike BuniTV, they host premium content only. To access content on Wabona, users have to be registered and rent content from the Wabona library.
GTBank Nigeria has seen how lucrative this service is and now has NdaniTV, a program only available on YouTube.
All these services mark a new era in African film and TV broadcast.
Challenges and Opportunities
One challenge as presented by linear broadcasting is that many independent film and TV producers do not have enough resources to give their content air play. With this new era, a wave of opportunity is opening for independent content producers and advertisers.
For the filmmakers, they can make their content available for free via various VoDs and won’t have to worry about heavy airtime fees. Their content can also reach a wider audience this way because it affords consumers access whenever they want and on both mobile and PC. This will give filmmakers and producers an opportunity to showcase what they have.
We spoke to Seun Agbelusi, an integrated marketing communication professional and aspiring filmmaker. Here’s what she told us:
“VoD will be of good advantage to creatives in providing an easy and affordable distribution channel. Data aggregation can help to distribute specific film genre to a specific demographic accurately. [Using this,] you can measure engagement with content more accurately.
“Yes, with the advent of smart phones, tablets, and broadband, online film distribution is the way to go, especially for indie filmmakers. The issue we have right now is that broadband is not widely and sufficiently available. Service providers are not consistent. [There is a prevalence of] narrow film genre and stereotyped content that may not appeal to the online demographic [and, also,] low awareness of how to monetize film content.”
She spoke on how this will benefit the filmmakers, especially the indie film makers, and also touched on the broadband infrastructural challenge before going on to talk on narrow film genre.
We then spoke with Emeka Okoye, a mobile app developer, consultant, and co-founder of Nex2US. We wanted to know what he thinks about the VoD services and if Africa is going to benefit from the service being offered. Here is what he had to say:
“VoDs are not meant for Africans yet. We do not have the bandwidth to view these services, rather, they are meant to serve the diaspora who always need to be in touch with things that remind them of their native land. Besides, none of these people are running a profitable venture yet. It is ripe for the filmmakers to use these channels for the exploitation of their content but for the diaspora.
“iROKOTV.com is [ranked number] 220 on Alexa’s Nigeria top sites but Afrinolly is nowhere to be found in the traffic report. What does that tell you?”
Looking at response from the two people we spoke with, you can notice that they both speak of bandwidth challenges. Iroking has time and again made it known that their content is consumed majorly by Africans in the diaspora and they once made a comment that they are not making a dime out of Nigeria.
The major challenge facing the VoD services for content consumers from Africa is broadband access. BuniTV for instance have optimised the content so that they are not bandwidth intensive and folks with slow internet connection can still access them.
In the future, there will be a need for widely available broadband access to increase the number of people that access content online in Nigeria. The likes of BuniTV, MeTVafrica, Afrinolly, Wabona and so on have seen the constraint as a door of opportunity and are exploring it. Soon enough, the right infrastructure will support the content creators and supply will meet demand profitably. For now, targeting those in the diaspora, like IrokoTV has done, may be the way to go for most of the VoD service providers while waiting for the right infrastructure to be put in place within the African continent.
[image via Wowza]