Collywood TV is an unusual bridge between Africa and the wider diaspora of African descent in North America and the Caribbean. Russell Southwood spoke to its founder Junior Hart about how the platform developed and how he can work with African film and TV producers.
Collywoodtv.com (C as in Caribbean) was founded by film-maker Junior Hart in 2008 but he admits that "When I formulated the idea of a streaming platform the Internet was very slow. I had to build up content until the Internet picked up. I started with my own content and licensed other content."
The service offers two distinct services: a monthly unlimited TV subscription for GBP1 a month and Pay Per movies at GBP1 a view. It also has a UK Comedy Shack which features Afro-Caribbean comedy performances. With these different offers he has built up a customer base of 2 million users, 200,000 of which are spread across Africa including Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana and Senegal. For each African market the service is translated into local currency.
So does he have much African content yet?:"There's not much content yet but we have over 200,000 subscribers throughout Africa. It's waiting on the Internet getting a bit faster but we're lining up content for the future... The future is streaming. Mainstream TV will be obsolete."
He's looking for what he sees as quality content:"In Africa, with Nollywood, I wanted to be a notch above that. The Caribbean doesn't know much about Africa except what it's seen on TV and vice-versa." He has also licensed content from Netflix including Beasts of No Nation and SRB, about Idi Amin's secret service:"These are the kinds of films we're pushing."
"We want to attract African film-makers. The challenge is getting beyond the film festival circuit. You get exposure but where does the content go after that? Only one in a thousand (festival films) get proper distribution. People are trying to follow the old mould. It doesn't build film-makers. That's where we come in."
Nollywood has become increasingly popular in the Caribbean and Trace TV has shown how both Caribbean and African Hip-Hop have become a common currency. So maybe certain kinds of African films and TV programmes will become popular amongst Caribbean communities.
For more information: CollywoodTV.com