How The Web And Other Platforms Are Disrupting The Nollywood Industry

“I believe it’s high time film makers started considering other platforms aside from the DVD because if DVD is the only option that we have, then I don’t think this industry is going to get anywhere”. — Kunle Afolayan

So much has been written lately about the Nigerian movie industry. Many media outlets including International finance news magazines like The Economist and The New York Times have covered Nollywood and the industry’s unique marketing and unusual ways of doing business.

I’m in no way close in authority as the listed publications, so is there any point for me writing about the industry’s future disruption? Afterall, I’ve personally in my twitter bio admitted to being a hack.

But hey, who isn’t a hack in Nollywood?

From hack script writers to hack directors, who else is in a better position to be writing this article than a hack internet guy unable to sleep at 3am in the morning being haunted by lessons from his own failed startups and predicting doom for other businessess.

My first point which may along the way remind policy makers how unrealistic most economic theories are, is that, contrary to intuitive business thinking, for the Nigerian movie industry, quality didn’t necessarily translate to more revenues or customer engagement.

Viewers didn’t demand much from the industry in terms of production standards and with widespread piracy, spending money for the sake of quality was a huge risk on the side of the producers.  Good quality or not, users just buy anyway, so why waste money on something that doesn’t really matter. This caused the industry to stall in creativity and picture quality for almost two decades, while sales boomed to close to 800 million dollars a year as stated in the 2011 Forbes article “Hollywood, Meet Nollywood” by Mfonobong Nsehe.

As the movies made by Nollywood gradually appealled to other demographics  and with an emerging middle class in Nigeria (due to the booming economy which growth last year was 7% if you’d believe the numbers), viewers are beginning to change their habits which could disrupt the industry in the very near future.

Last April, the Nigerian Movie Marketers Association (FVPMAN) met and concluded they would pull their movies from the AfricaMagic channel, saying the compensation they get from such a deal isn’t fair and blaming such deals for shrinking DVD and CD sales.

The ways in which viewers consume content have changed due to technology and change in lifestyle. Nobody spends money and time at the cinema for a poor experience. You could sit at home on a Saturday and watch a 4 part DVD of a poorly acted and recycled story-line movie just to pass the time, but would you go all the way to the cinema with your friends or family and pay money for a similar movie?

I bet not.

As for me, I’d rather save some bucks on the ticket and the pop corn, buy roasted corn on the road-side and crunch on it while I watch the evening rush hour motorists curse each other out, I’m sure that experience would be much more entertaining. Now, more people in Nigeria go to cinemas to watch movies,  this is the new lifestyle.

Also, nobody would spend their time and Internet data streaming a poor quality and over-stretched act. And with the slow speed of Internet in Nigeria, people just don’t have the patience. Many viewers would click away after a few minutes of a boring act. Internet streaming and viewing at the cinema are very different movie consumption ways from buying CDs or DVDs.

I’ve bought collections of DVDs that I am still yet to watch and I dont even know if I am ever going to watch them, but I’ve never bought a cinema ticket unsure if I’m going to use it or not. Same goes with the web, I only use my precious Internet plan to stream or download videos I’m sure I’ll like.

The truth is, banning Africa Magic channel from showing Nigerian movies won’t revive Nollywood’s CD sales. The only way to solve the problem is by making quality content to the new smart and ever evolving tech savvy audience by adapting your movies to the web and the new lifestyle of the viewers.

There is already a new Nollywood emerging. They make big budget movies and recoup most of their investment early at the cinemas. After that, anything else they sell is profit and better yet, they leave an army of impressed and satisfied fans. This is the new Nollywood and it’s the future. Just look at cinema ticket sales for Phone Swap, the movie which recently beat Hollywood block busters like Avengers in Nigeria. Look at the hockey stick growth of IrokoTV since its launch seven months ago. I’m glad some producers are beginning to realize and even embrace this.

“I believe it’s high time film makers started considering other platforms aside from the DVD because if DVD is the only option that we have, then I don’t think this industry is going to get anywhere” said Kunle Afolayan in an interview after the ground breaking success at the cinema for his movie Phone Swap. In the new platforms Afolayan is referring to, film makers would defintely have a tough time marketing poor quality films.

Online video sites won’t buy movies that would just sit in their library without any views because storage is expensive and cinemas won’t show a movie to empty seats. These two platforms are totally different from the DVD and the home video experience where someone sitting on a couch at home would tune in to almost any entertainment to kill boredom.

Nollywood is definitely getting disrupted sooner than later and not by technology alone unlike other entertainment industries. The new lifestyle of Nigeria’s Internet generation which goes beyond streaming movies online to their newly found love for the big screen and discussing cinema movie experiences on social media hangouts like Twitter and blogging movie reviews is playing a part in changing Nollywood through public criticisms like the popular hashtag  #NollywoodTaughtMe which became a worldwide trending topic.

This disruption is about quality!

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Aliyu Daku, founder of AfricaMars, an African TV content platform. You can follow him on Twitter @AfricaMars

Image: Mobile Cinema in Africa courtesy of Open Air Cinema Foundation.

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