London — For African content producers there's something rather beguiling about deals with the new generation of VoD platforms. But you have to work hard to make sure your content is seen. Andrew Osayemi, CEO, MTA Productions talked to me about the Meet The Adebanjos Netflix deal and making VoD work.
MTA Productions suffered from what a lot of African content producers do. It was producing comedy content that was widely liked but not getting enough money to keep producing that content:" You need to produce volume to make it work. It's hard with a young company. The key decision was to leverage the value of the content we have. So I've been working as a consultant or Executive Producer to help people with distribution and efficiencies in the workflow, how to minimize shooting time and keep quality high."
When production stopped in 2016, it had three seasons and 50 episodes:"We've been licensing it to different platforms in the UK, the USA and Africa. It's a testament to the content that people still want to buy it".
So how did he land the Netflix deal?:"It came about through networking. I met people who ended up at Netflix. They knew the show and our content. I was dealing directly with an executive at Netflix. We signed a straight licensing deal. Netflix pays for a standard licensing deal and you can negotiate what terms you want. It's a global deal but you could do just UK or Africa".
Osayemi sees the deal as a balance between reach and revenues:It's good and bad. You hold all the rights but the bad thing is that you miss out on Netflix's marketing muscle. They are less inclined to give you a push than for their own content. It's a balance between getting exposure and trying to get as much revenue as possible".
"The biggest thing I think VoD platforms suffer from is visibility. People won't just come and view your content once it's on the platform. It can sit on the platform not doing anything. You need to spend your own money to advertise and promote it".
"It also depends on the platform's algorithms. If it doesn't match African content, you'll never show up. And on other platforms, the levels of usage means that it doesn't move the needle".
Nevertheless the Meet The Adebanjos series seems to be doing well on Netflix:"We've been on Netflix for six months and it seems to be doing well. There are no audience figures. Netflix don't tell you the figures but it has been very encouraging. It's been doing well across Africa, the USA and UK and other diaspora hot-spots. It's been subtitled into Spanish, Portuguese and French by Netflix and this will bring new audiences".
"From a producer's perspective you need to build traction on terrestrial platforms and then VoD audiences will enhance a show. I've made some of my biggest deals with VoD platforms where people didn't really see the show for two years. It's that balance between reach vs revenues that you always need to keep in mind".
One of the keys to success with VoD platforms is having a media strategy to tell people about the content:"We hired a PR consultancy and it got us on BBC Africa and newspaper articles and in this way you can promote the fact that it's appearing on Netflix. The other part of the strategy is to look out for an influencer on social media who can shout about it".
So how do you think Netflix is doing in Africa?:"It's going. There are still issues about the cost of data. It's often more expensive than the actual Netflix subscription. In developing countries, having satellite is very aspirational: it's about moving from working class to middle class. The dish on the front of the house symblises this transition".
He's currently in discussion with Netflix about shooting season four of Meet The Adebanjos but is cautious:"Maybe it will happen later on this year. If it does, well do 2-4 weeks in a hired studio because of the Covid-19 context."