By Chigoziem Dike
There is no doubt that, over the years, indigenous entertainment television content has soared in popularity among Nigerians. While prior to now, locally produced television entertainment programmes enjoyed a measure of popularity, they were in no way the smash hits that they have since become.
Back then, Nigerian producers, consistently hamstrung by financing and rudimentary work tools, duelled for public attention and interest with more sophisticated productions from abroad. They equally had to confront the mile-high odd of entrenched xenophilia that ensured local preference for anything with a foreign label, which ensured that the number of hours devoted to the broadcast of local programmes was low.
But give credit where due and a sizeable slice of it must go to the producers who, against all odds, including measly financial rewards for their output, brought joy to many Nigerian homes.
The difficulties of those days of course, not completely forgotten, are fading from memory. It is certainly not yet uhuru, but the current situation is some 20 streets and a few roundabouts away from what the television programming production sector used to be.
Local entertainment programming production owes its popularity, I believe, to the relatability of the stories, which reflect authentic Nigerian realities, including languages, cultural mores and reflect Nigerians’ hopes and dreams.
A huge portion of the current boom, I am convinced, is attributable to high-volume investments, which have seen producers commissioned to produce indigenous content as well as the acquisition of independent productions. It is reasonable to conclude that the investments have impacted the ability of the producers to make additional content, especially with considerably higher quality, for the local television market and keep the tills ringing.
At the forefront of investments in the local television content production sector is digital terrestrial television service operator, GOtv Nigeria which, since its debut in 2011, has placed the emphasis on commissioning and acquisition of local television productions. This has resulted in a situation in which a significant percentage of GOtv Nigeria subscribers are enjoying Nigerian-themed content in English and in local languages, notably on Africa Magic Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba, the three channels exclusively dedicated to broadcasting in the country’s three major languages.
This, I have to add, is not the case with every other player on the Nigerian pay television landscape, where acquisition and not commissioning is the dominant practice.
From available figures spanning 2015 to 2019, for example, the sum of $52.4million was spent on commissioning local producers to create content for Africa Magic. Content produced in-house gulped $8.3million, while $26.1 million went into the acquisition of content from local producers.
In any language, this spells faith in the capacity of local content producers and, of course, a huge shot in the arm for the sector. The investments have increased the duration for the broadcast of locally commissioned and produced content to about 180,000 hours. Also impacted are jobs in the industry, as producers are able to hire more people and retain them because of the assurance of patronage.
Aside from that, the operator’s investments in digital broadcasting infrastructure, which gives it the widest DTT network coverage in the country, provides millions of Nigerians access to its service. This, in turn, means hefty exposure of the output of local producers.
And with ease of acquisition of the GOtv hardware at N9,400 plus one month subscription on the GOtv Max package, as well as pocket-friendly subscription rates, access to local programming alongside the international variety is further widened.
Side by side these are the carriage of a string of local channels, including Spice TV, MiTV, WAP TV, ITV Benin, BISCON, Liberty TV, Tiwan Tiwan, R2TV and Rave TV-all of which were added to the platform at no additional cost to subscribers.
It has to be stated that an utopia has not been created, but it will require a mighty effort to persuade local producers and others familiar with the production ecosystem in the past and now that GOtv Nigeria’s investments in the sector have not wrought changes in quantity and quality of output.
Dike writes from Lagos