AfroLandTV: Africa’s ‘New Netflix?

A new streaming service based in the US has exploded onto the scene, with the goal of bringing pan-African stories to the world and manipulating African stereotypes seen on popular TV shows, writes Adaora Oramah.

“Our stories are for everyone,” the Dallas-based media streaming startup, is proudly brandished on AfroLandTV ‘s website. Touted as the latest Netflix or Disney+ for Africa by the 2020 Berlinale International Film Festival in Germany, the Afrocentric content library platforms welcome you into a world of action , comedy, suspense, and romance, all played by African talent.

Established by Michael Maponga, a Zimbabwean actor turned entrepreneur, the service achieves its vision for a streaming platform for subscription video-on – demand (SVOD) featuring and curating Pan-African film and television content. “We’re internationally bridging Pan-African tales. Someone in Brazil can now watch Nollywood or a Ugandan movie and enjoy it all on one site.

The Texan start-up was chosen this month for the new cohort of the 13-week tech-focused program, Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator. The seed funding of $160,000 would help the platform enter a market that is competitive with suitors. With 1.4 million subscribers on the continent, Netflix has poured funds into local productions. According to Digital TV study, another long-established pay-TV player, Multichoice, has nearly 20 m continental subscribers, the majority of which are in South Africa.

AfrolandTV is also coming to the scene at a time when main African competitor I TV, the world’s largest legal digital distributor of African movies, has scaled down its growth ambitions in Africa and Nigeria, especially after the downturn caused by the pandemic.

Even though the bulk of I ‘s TV revenues come from outside Africa, targeting the diaspora in the US, UK and Europe, an increase in subscriber numbers at the beginning of the lockdown was soon foreseen by dropping incomes and a flagging naira at home.

AfroLandTV also offers African, African-American, Black European, Caribbean, and Afro-Latino content, unlike Iroko TV, which only offers Nollywood titles. Better broadband, lower data rates and network expansion also allow streamed content more available to the continent at large.

Western Stereotypes Daunting

AfroLandTV says it questions non-African conceptions of Africa in a television industry dominated by giants such as Netflix , Amazon Prime Video, Disney, DSTV. As a consequence, Maponga discloses the strict vetting and submission process of the business for content creators.

The titles concerning wars, poverty, and illness are not seen. The main platforms are doing that already,’ Maponga said.

There is a deliberate attempt by African content-driven outlets to address and condemn imagery that some claims have harmed Africa in the global media, similar to digitally native outlets such as For Africans By Africans.

“TV is the world’s greatest influencer and programmer,” Maponga says. The creation of thrillers and the introduction of historical documentaries and fictional stories about the pre-colonial period of Africa are essential components of the content provided by the site.
To take on giants

Although the start-up lacks the funds to license content, Maponga said, they have “grown from nothing to something with very limited resources.” Afrocentric VOD start-ups have historically struggled with the cost-intensive content licensing process, which contributed to Afrostream ‘s premature demise as it struggled to license big titles from Hollywood, Europe and Africa.

This strategy, Maponga said, was detrimental to cash flow. “Particularly for a start-up, licensing Hollywood content is very costly and requires significant upfront cash investments,” Maponga added.

By comparison, AfroLandTV adopts a leaner approach to its methods for business growth. Instead, through selling and monetising smaller , local African productions, it is committed to cultivating a loyal following.

“We don’t pretend to be like Netflix,” Maponga said. “We’re internationally gathering these stories. You might consider us a platform of a niche, but we are a platform of a global niche.

Also, AfroLandTV does not seek to gain market share from major television and streaming firms. New entrants in the digital streaming and TV industry have failed to compete in the African media environment against South Africa ‘s TV giant DSTV ‘s reign due to ambitious licensing deals. The success of its VOD website, DSTV Now, has made it increasingly difficult.

The disruptive existence of illicit streaming platforms that deliver content for free is also faced by SVOD start-ups. The value proposition of AfroLandTV rests on its commitment to delivering original content at what it considers to be an affordable $3.99 per month price, enabling users to diversify their streaming content. We subscribe to 2-3 video streaming services on average. For what they want to watch, people are creating streaming packages, “Maponga said. “We chose this price point because we want to make adding AfroLandTV to their streaming package simple for users.”

This compares to a $3-a-month mobile-only subscription recently introduced by Netflix in Nigeria (less than a third of its US subscription price) and iRoko ‘s cost of less than $1 a month.

Adaora Oramah is a Nigerian-American writer on industry patterns and innovations in the cultural and creative industries of Africa.

Original Article on : African Business Magazine