In March 2017, a team of leading media and technology investors from Silicon Valley made a trip to four cities in Africa – Lagos, Accra, Johannesburg and Cape Town – to explore the possibility of mutually beneficial business partnerships on the continent. Of the cities that this group, tagged Geeks on a Plane (GOAP), visited, it was only in Nigeria that they engaged the film industry.
The prevalence of smartphone technology in Nigeria, coupled with the country’s large population, piqued the interest of the Geeks. They are not only considering roles in the digital distribution of creative content, but are also thinking of bankrolling the creation of content in Nollywood by providing production funds to producers in Nollywood.
Whilst the digital revolution has led to an explosion of all kinds of content available online, quality is still vital for any content provider who hopes to enjoy patronage. The degree of demand through digital distribution is driven, principally, by the quality of content. Therefore, Nollywood needs to produce a critical mass of excellent movies and television series – productions that combine compelling storytelling with remarkable technical quality – if it wants to take advantage of this investment in digital content production and distribution.
Strengthening the movie business for global acclaim
It will be recalled that in 2016, Lagos was chosen for the Toronto International Film Festival’s city-to-city programme, evidence of the growing international attention that Nollywood has begun to receive. So, perhaps it is time that the industry paid unalloyed attention to its organisation and the quality of its storytelling. Nollywood cannot reach Olympian heights in digital distribution when a vast majority of the films emanating from the industry are still tiresome, repetitive and pedestrian.
Additionally, a large number of talent in the industry are antipathetic to the various associations and guilds in Nollywood, and entrants and veterans alike are unwilling to join or actively participate in them. This is cause for these groups to eschew lingering leadership tussles and the formation of parallel organisations in order to reposition themselves as a pressure group with the primary objective of protecting the interest of their members. By doing so, the Nigerian film industry can become a force to be reckoned with.
Proactive unions and guilds will also have an indirect impact on the transactions between filmmakers and Silicon Valley by ensuring that each party fulfils its obligations to the other. If the associations are pragmatic, they will begin to position themselves to intervene when disputes arise from dealings between their members and the Geeks.
Further Opportunities for Nollywood
A deal between the Geeks and Nollywood can further engender competition among existing digital distribution platforms, such as Irokotv, Ibakatv and Netflix. If Nollywood improves the quality of its content, these sites will have to constantly court Nigerian film producers with competitive pricing if they seek to remain in business.
Fortunately, it is easy to track the number of subscriptions and views for such content. This will eliminate the controversies that exist between producers and distributors in analog distribution, where the former often suspect and accuse the latter of short-changing them by remitting amounts of money that are far less than actual sales would require.
Even though digital distribution platforms usually prefer the outright acquisition of content rather than profit sharing with content owners, the participation of several distributors will eventually eliminate monopolies – depending on subscription numbers. This will confer greater bargaining power on the producers who can now go for the highest bidders of their products.
With this development, the Nigerian film industry could have the world at its feet. Surely, there is every reason to make the most of this opportunity.