Nigeria: How I'm Shaping New Narratives in Nigeria's Motion Pictures

1 August 2021

Streaming services are the new gold in the global movie industry, and in Nigeria, Kike Moronkeji, a qualified scientist and engineer in different fields, joins the race with the launch of Gidi Box Office, writes Vanessa Obioha

As far back as she can remember, Kike Moronkeji has always been arts inclined. Her creative streak was evinced in different hues, from writing poems to stories which she hardly completes -- a familiar challenge for emerging writers. She was particularly drawn to Nollywood.

"I had a very strong interest in Nollywood movies," she said.

However, her educational qualifications boast more engineering courses. She has a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, a master's in Aerospace Vehicle Design, a PhD in Biomechanical Engineering. She is also a chartered engineer with the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Yet, her passion for the arts continues to grow such that when she discovered a way to marry the two passions together, she leapt on it with unbridled fervour.

The result is the birth of a new movie streaming platform Gidi Box Office.

"A movie streaming platform was such a draw, particularly as I could marry entertainment with technology," she enthused.

Gidi Box Office serves as a subscription video-on-demand service streaming platform of specially curated Nollywood titles. The goal is to showcase premium content from Nollywood's silver screens, alongside Nigerian movies making debuts at international film festivals to a global community.

"The opportunity this platform offers is a well-balanced ecosystem that provides an outlet for the content provider and a rich source of African stories for the viewers. The outcome of this fine balance serves the purpose of heightening your viewing pleasure, maximising options, and tapping into a huge diaspora community.

"Our goal at Gidi Box Office is to establish a standard and world-class Nollywood video streaming services platform that will accommodate users from all across the world," explained Moronkeji.

The streaming industry is rapidly growing globally. Since the American giant streamer Netflix recorded success and demonstrated the global appeal of streaming services, more media and entertainment investors are joining the queue. In America, the streamer is facing competition with new services such as Disney Plus and HBO Max.

The latter recently announced plans to enter the Latin America market while Amazon, the giant e-commerce company owned by one of the world's richest, Jeff Bezos, revealed plans to buy the 97-year-old film and television studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer -- also home to James Bond films -- for $8.45 billion which will help its streaming platform Amazon Prime to compete favourably with other streamers in the American market. In Nigeria, Netflix is still the cream of Nollywood. Since last year when it announced interest in producing original Nigerian content, many Nollywood movies have been added to the expanding vault of the streamer. Besides, the streamer recorded significant growth last year when the COVID-19 pandemic locked down the world as more people depended on entertainment to overcome the gripping uncertainty. However, ARISEPlay, the new global streaming service from Arise Media Group, is also taking a market share.

The way Moronkeji sees it, online video consumption will not decline in the coming years. Rather there will be a rapid spike.

"In recent years, online video consumption has grown rapidly and is projected to continue on that upward trajectory over the next several years. The growth of the online viewing audience is driven by both growing internet penetration and the availability of increasingly capacious broadband networks (both fixed and mobile) capable of transmitting high-quality video. This growth is occurring in both developed and developing countries.

"The fastest growth is expected in the Middle Rank    ( + / - )East, Africa, and the Asia Pacific. Africa is projected to see significant growth in subscription video-on-demand services as the nascent market continues to mature," she said.

Particularly, she sees an increase in Nollywood consumption. This, she said, can be attributed to "the increase in our production values, art direction, improvement in script construction, continuity, well-developed plots brought to life by actors that respect their craft, to name a few.

There is obviously so much more that can be credited to this surge in interest in Nollywood content.," she noted. "All this did not happen overnight, and we have our legends in the industry to thank for all their hard work in laying the foundation that we will continue to build upon."

While few Nigerian-owned streamers are vying for their position in the market, Moronkeji believes her platform has a comparative advantage. According to her, the difference lies in the Gidi Box Office approach to streaming and distribution.

"There is no doubt that the industry is extremely competitive, which is why we are clear in our objectives that the diaspora is our target audience. We aim to bridge the gap in the market by solving the problem of limited access to direct cinematic Nollywood content for diaspora audiences. Our objective is on servicing the diaspora, which is anywhere between five to 15 million people and expected to increase to about 25 million by 2026.

"In focusing on our objective, we also address the challenge of limited distribution opportunities for filmmakers and content creators. We will keep evolving and bringing new features to our platform to ensure our customers have a smooth and seamless viewing experience."

The engineer plans to work with upcoming independent filmmakers and has developed two models to remunerate content producers for their work. The first model involves a one-off payment where a license fee is paid on acquisition. The second model, which is based on performance and the number of streams their content generates, will be a 'pay per hour' payment model. Moronkeji disclosed that the 'pay per hour' option provides the filmmaker with an opportunity to earn revenue each month for as long as their content is on the platform.

Currently, there are two plans on the platform: a monthly subscription plan for $4.99 (N2,070) or a yearly subscription, which costs $53.89 and includes a 10% discount.

"We are looking to license more premium cinema movies for our global audience because we understand the huge appetite by people in the diaspora for quality Nollywood movies," she said. "Not everyone in the diaspora is able to travel to Nigeria for premieres of the cinema movies or conveniently watch Nollywood movies in Nigerian cinemas, so we must bridge this gap by being the platform that makes these movies readily available."

The platform's first original series, 'Sisi Eko,' launched in May while its feature film '13 Letters' is currently in post-production and will go to cinemas before the end of the year. The movie is produced and directed by the super-talented Kayode Peters and parades a stellar cast that includes Kunle Remi, Bimbo Ademoye, Bolanle Ninalowo, Mofe Duncan, Teddy A, among others.

"We are committed to helping the industry grow by showcasing the sensational, engaging, interesting, exciting, dramatic, and adventurous films by content producers for consumers," she stated.

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