London — Establishing yourself in the Nigerian production sector is a tough business and requires a tricky combination of the ability to persuade sponsors to step up to the plate, a feel for what will work locally but sell continentally and access to finance. Russell Southwood talked to Shileola Ibironke, CEO, Micromedia Group about how she made her first two series, her new productions and opening a cinema in Lagos.
Unlike a lot of industry executives on the continent, she started out as an economics graduate who then focused on marketing. Although she had a part in a film while a student, she didn't come from the creative side. She started out as a sales executive at CMA and ended up as Brand Manager for Soundcity Music Channel. However, things took a different turn when she decided to take leave to start a family and that's when the idea of starting Micromedia was born.
She started a content distribution company of her own:"We acquired content in Nigeria to distribute it locally. Three years down the line we decided to produce our own telenovela."
That telenovela was called Taste of Love and Micromedia produced 200 episodes in nine months as executive producers. The series was first aired on Silverbird television and DStv's Africa Magic channel.
Later it was sold to Canal+ with Micromedia paying for the dubbing into French:"It had to be to a very high standard for Canal+." On her second series - Casino - she admits ruefully that Canal+ rejected 80 episodes because the dubbing was not up to the standard it required.
It bought the format from a Ukrainian TV company at Mipcom:"Buying from Eastern Europe did not cost as much as high-end markets (like the USA and Europe)". The (production) "bible" that came with the format made it very easy to film and the series was shot in Ibadan.
Both Taste of Love and Casino have been sold to a variety of buyers on the continent including: NTV Uganda, Media 24, TV3 (Ghana) and NBC (Namibia). Sales revenues have been 70% from Nigeria and 30% from outside Nigeria but because of the current recession in Nigeria, that part of its sales revenues has been shrinking. Productions are usually pre-financed through getting forward commitments from local sponsors against which it can raise a bank overdraft or credit line.
It has two new productions in the works: Broken Hearts and Pamper Me With Love. One of them is a dating show aimed at "urban millennials who have a social media life". These two new titles are looking for co-production partners and these have usually been found locally. But this time she has looked further afield and says that:"DISCOP is the first market we've come into in Africa and it's opened up new channels. There are lots of interested African countries who want to co-produce with us". Each of the two shows would run for four seasons. It will be putting up US$1 million from its own revenues and would be looking for a partner to match with the same sum (which includes dubbing costs).
In addition to production, Micromedia has opened a cinema brand called Heritage Cinemas. Currently it has only one cinema in a mid to low income area of Lagos called Abule-egba but it would like to open more in the future. She says that it offers the best of international and Nigerian movies and there are plans afoot to offer game arcades, and an e-gaming arena.