Nigeria’s “Nollywood” film industry is the world’s second biggest producer of movies, ahead of Hollywood, creating Video on demand (VOD) content for Africa’s increasingly connected, entertainment-mad populations.
It hasn’t always been that way. Feature film production started in the 1980s and 90s (kick-started by movies like “Living in Bondage”, the country’s first blockbuster, which sold with over 300.000 VHS cassettes), at a time when movie theatres were in bad shape. Many closed to become garages, restaurants and in some cases, churches, and for a while the only way to see a film was on VHS, and then later, on DVD, when bootlegging took off.
But movie-making is in Nigerians’ blood. And thirty years later, Africa’s most densely-populated country (196 million inhabitants) has overcome all obstacles to produce a colossal 2000 films a year, surpassing Hollywood at record speed and generating 4 billion dollars in revenue.
In turn, the movie houses are back—and it’s not just in Nigeria that multi-screen complexes have sprung up: Abidjan, Niamey, Dakar and Douala have all recently upgraded their cinemas, and South Africa has its own spattering of multiplexes, attracting evermore upwardly-mobile urbanites, with the promise of quality home-grown and international entertainment.
L.A. as a model for entertainment
This new generation of cinema-goers has become the target audience for new VOD companies too. In Nigeria, inspired by Netflix’s success (125 million subscribers), the model-turned-blogger Linda Ikeji has launched her own TV channel, LITV. With almost 2 million subscribers on Instagram, this influencer extraordinaire wants LITV to “be to Africa what Netflix is to the world”, and has invested half a billion naira (1.4 million dollars) of her own money into the project (which will give subscribers access to US-inspired shows and films for 1,000 nairas/month – 2,7 dollars).
The worldwide phenomenon of “binge-watching” is one of the reasons why— before the end of the year—Nigerian company Envivo will also be offering a streaming service (in association with the American telecom group Cisco). South Africa already has its own service, Magic Go for 8 dollars a month, as does Kenya, with BuniTV for 5 dollars/month.
The rise of VOD will undoubtedly help take Africa’s film industry even further. The number of local productions has already started to increase—in Liberia and Ghana in particular—and the continent’s largest film festival, held in Burkino Faso, is going from strength to strength, attracting worldwide attention. It’s ‘sky’s the limit’ for African filmmaking right now. Los Angeles may have been the model for the last 60 years, but its successor in is Africa.