Recognizing that the time has come for Nollywood’s powerful storytelling to be seen around the world, Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife Media, is looking at international partnerships to bring a new vision of Africa to the global landscape.
She has been billed by Forbes as “Africa’s most successful woman” and the continent’s “queen of talk,” but Mo Abudu has global conquest on her agenda at EbonyLife. Starting with her Moments with Mo talk show, Abudu built a multiplatform content business that encompasses a pan-African pay-TV channel, a production studio and a global OTT platform.
WS: What are the greatest opportunities for EbonyLife in the global content landscape?
ABUDU: As we celebrated our fifth anniversary on July 1, we restructured our business to focus on four key areas. We have evolved into EbonyLife Media, based on the gaps we identified in our market. There may be challenges ahead, but the opportunities are even greater. These are going to make us more relevant, now and in the future.
EbonyLife Studios, our film production service for in-house projects and third-party clients, emerged after we observed the need to service our own productions and those of other commercial organizations. We specialize in the production of events, infomercials, commercials and other video-generated content.
EbonyLife TV, our linear channel, broadcasts on DStv and StarTimes in Africa, as well as on FLOW in ten Caribbean countries. With the creation of EbonyLife TV, we realized that African audiences wanted to see themselves, in their own stories, on television and at the cinema. They wanted to see an African narrative that reflected their own struggles and triumphs, the closeness of their relationships, and the progress being made in their emerging societies. We were tired of being portrayed in perpetual crisis—war, famine and corruption. Since deciding to change that narrative, we have created more than 5,000 hours of programming and currently have several projects in development.
We know how important it is to continue to change the narrative. We started with television and, within a year of launching EbonyLife TV, we had launched EbonyLife Films. We have produced the biggest films in Nollywood to date. Recently, we acquired the rights to Professor Wole Soyinka’s play Death and the King’s Horseman. We see this as a global feature film release and are hard at work to bring it to the world of global cinema. In addition, we have a number of feature films in development.
Our global VOD digital service EbonyLife ON enables Africans across the continent and in the diaspora to enjoy high-quality series and movies at their convenience. This service has expanded our reach dramatically, beyond satellite TV platforms.
WS: In what markets are you seeing a demand for content from the African continent?
ABUDU: As a TV broadcaster and OTT operator, we have seen the demand for drama and reality continue to increase. The draw continues to be our hit drama series. Research indicates that viewers want to see stories that reflect their everyday lives, content that is relevant to them. We do this in the most stylish way possible, with our bouquet of drama, talk, reality and lifestyle programming. Viewers know quality and we have seen rising demand for our products in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Guinea, France, Australia, Ireland and Italy.
WS: Tell us about your recent deal with Sony Pictures Television (SPT).
ABUDU: In March 2018, we finalized a production deal with Sony Pictures Television to co-develop three exciting new scripted TV projects, with SPT set to distribute internationally. The three-project deal, the first of its kind between SPT and a Nigerian production company, will include a TV series inspired by the Dahomey warriors. The action-packed series, inspired by true events that took place in the West African kingdom of Dahomey, will tell the empowering story of these all-female warriors and show the ultimate strength of women coming together, fighting to protect and honor their people.
WS: What other co-production alliances are you pursuing internationally?
ABUDU: We have invested hugely in the development of scripted and unscripted formats with an African twist. We see this as a great opportunity to pursue co-pro alliances internationally, for titles with an African perspective and a global outlook. The world craves freshness, newness and the alternative. We believe this is what sets us apart. We have been very successful in Nollywood and are now looking to produce features with a broader appeal that resonate with the black diaspora and beyond.
WS: What are your goals for your international business in the year ahead?
ABUDU: We have a treasure trove full of stories; it’s our passion, vision and purpose to take these stories to a global audience with the highest quality and the best entertainment value possible. Our dream is to continue to create premium content and to give audiences around the globe the opportunity to join our world and share our story.