GLITTERATI COVER

For creating eight thriving television channels in 12 years, Tajudeen Adepetu sometimes thinks he is a superman, but his creative energy is fast receding and he frequently waits for his wife to go to bed before he starts brainstorming. He told Nseobong Okon-Ekong that he looks forward to an early retirement; so that he can relax and have serious fun

The throng of people at the Ikeja-Lagos hotel had responded to his invitation. It was a busy day for Tajudeen Adepetu, CEO, Consolidated Media Associates. Many wanted his attention. It could be for something as profound as ‘to have a word’ or a mundane activity like posing for a photograph with him. Others simply wanted to congratulate him for the successful launch of another television channel. The bustle was hectic and because a good number of the persons were his friends, acquaintances and professional colleagues, one could only turn down this show of familiarity at the risk of being termed a snub.

The moment he had a breather, he dashed out to be by himself and that was the moment we arrived to, unwittingly spoil his fun. He was already bringing out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. Pleading our indulgence to polish off one stick, he sank into a seat by the swimming pool. He smoked contemplatively while making a light conversation about the economy of the country. A few more sticks of cigarettes after, he felt satiated and fully refreshed enough to engage the reporters. We moved back into the lounge of the hotel to begin what would later be a very interesting and revealing conversation.

Adepetu belongs to that small category of people who are living their dream. He is doing what he always wanted to do and he is playing at the highest level possible – that of a business owner and employer.

Perhaps, it is right to say Providence had a hand in his affairs. First, he had his upbringing in Jos, a city famed for its television culture, as exemplified by the fact that the only purpose-built degree awarding institution for television studies is in Jos. The city has the reputation of recording Nigeria’s advancement in television broadcast with the beginning of the colour revolution. It was in this city filled with television broadcast memes that Adepetu grew up with his grandmother, who he credits with having an effective way of teaching. From her, he learnt how to use the power of reason and persuasion. She could tell stories, and this was a major influence on the young Adepetu.

The control Jos had over his life became total and complete when his sister started working for Nigeria Television Authority in the city. That meant a daily routine that took him from school to the NTA to pick his sister. While waiting for her to finish work, he had enough time on his hands to wonder around NTA, Jos. He was in primary school, but he was already bitten by the bug of television production.

Many years later, Adepetu returned to the television college as a student, not a curious youngster. Of course, it was a familiar ground. He came to the Television College, with the full knowledge of what he was going to do. Over the years, focusing on that route has been easy.

The Ikeja soiree was held to celebrate the arrival of Trybe Television, Adepetu’s latest venture. It is his eight television channel and he has come to terms with the fact that he can’t expand any further. So far, he has done all he set out for, except a kiddies channel. Children are the only member of the family Adepetu has, regrettably, left out of a deliberate plan to create television channels with content that will interest every member of the family. With eight channels already, he is willing to sacrifice the interest of children for the opportunity to consolidate and improve on what he has on ground.

By establishing these television channels, Adepetu said he wants to provide an unsurpassed platform to offer value to every part of the family. “I want to be part of the life of every member of the family. I’m creating channels that address the needs of those individuals, specifically. We created these channels a long time ago. For instance, Spice TV has been in existence for long, but people got to know about it when it got unto the DStv platform. We are not really doing anything now in terms of creating new channels; we have eight channels and those eight channels are what we’ve been working on in the past ten years. We have the Tribe Movie Channel, Spice Tv, a fashion channel, we have the ONtv, which is for general entertainment and we have the ONtv Max focused on the father of the house. We have Access 24, which is a news channel; by the time people see it on DStv, they will understand what we are doing. It’s a channel that the man of the house will feel comfortable watching with his child. We have the Televista Series Channel and Urban 96, a lifestyle channel. The only difference between Urban 96 and Soundcity, the music channel, is that Urban 96 is only available on mobile.”

Adepetu explained why he focuses on creating content for television channels instead of investing in a television station. “Today’s broadcasting is targeted broadcasting. If you want to speak to the man of the house, there are certain things that interest him. You cannot be speaking to the man of the house and at the same time talking to the woman of the house. You need to meet people at the point of their needs. We try to meet our viewers and listeners at the point of their need.”

Twelve years ago, Adepetu started with a general entertainment brand called Weekend Television, where he had blocks of programming on AIT from Monday to Sunday for three hours. “The first day AIT launched, it was primarily 40 per cent of our programmes that was running on AIT at that time. We’ve been around. We started with them and we grew with them. We were able to work with them because, they were the only people at that time that understood where we wanted to go to as television professionals.”

Adepetu continued to produce content for AIT before he started his own platform. But when the work blocked the advancement of his personal dream, he stopped and decided in 2005 to launch his channels.

Each of the channels runs on its individual structure, with its own channel manager and brand marketing team. However, they share a few things, like the engineering, administrative and finance departments which service the entire group. The CMA group has 252 staff members. Adepetu does not retain this large number of dependents to service a passion. For him, it is strictly business.

“There’s a clear economic direction. We will not do stuff that does not pay itself to run. We will always do a channel because we know that channel is sought after. That means there will be people willing to put certain elements within it to make it sustainable. Anything we do is based on research. I have group of boys who are prepared to tear my ideas to pieces. I have to defend it. Sometimes, people wonder if I’m working for these boys or they are working for me. I’ve trained them to be fearless in expressing their opinions and that has helped the company. Once we put our foot forward, we are not guessing. It’s guided by knowledge and facts.”

Being grounded personally has helped Adepetu to remain on top of his game. He is well versed in all aspects of television production – production, writing, directing and marketing of content.

Trybe TV, his latest channel was created to offer a platform for African films. The channel shows 70 per cent movies and 30 per cent other incidental content that revolve around the whole industry; how the films are made and the rest.

In the world of gambling, it is a famed statement that every hand is a winner and every hand is a loser. It has not been an unbreakable string of wins for Adepetu. He was forced into the painful decision to rest Soundcity Music Video Awards. For three years, the show ran on its steam, without external funds. “It was too expensive to run from our pocket. At that time, the award was costing us a million dollars every year for those three years. It was very difficult to sustain. If we find potential sponsors that believe in the dream and are able to fund it, then we can still go ahead and do it.”

Because he is a pathfinder of sorts, Adepetu has not only taken, he finds himself giving, a lot of times. From verbal guidance to financial contribution, he is frequently called upon to shape the process that has transformed many artistes from nothing to millionaires. This makes him extremely happy. Nothing compares to that joy.

“All of our brands are designed on that basic fact that we want to project our country. No matter what challenges that we face internally, when you go to other African countries, you will realise that we are in paradise. I’m extremely proud of my people and of what our ideas are able to do for people outside and within the country.”

“I never worked for anybody,” Adepetu announced without a hint of pride. “I went to TV College Jos, went to University of Jos to study Theatre Arts, did film, did some short courses here and there and then launched out on my own. The only reason I didn’t work with anybody is not for any ego, but because there was just nobody thinking the way I was thinking. If I had gone to work for anybody, they won’t understand where I was coming from, where I was going to and that would create a lot of conflict; I was not about to start having conflict in my life. I decided that I was going to do things my way. It has been extremely difficult, but I’ve managed to pull through.”

To understand Adepetu’s career trajectory better, one must listen to him carefully make a distinction between his first still camera and his first motion picture camera. The still camera was a birthday gift from his mother. He was very adventurous with it. The motion picture camera brings back painful memories.

“The camera never really did an honest day’s work. I paid upfront and the person I bought it from was supposed to be a big brother. My consolation is that person still sees me now and he is nowhere near my status, but I don’t keep malice. There are certain things that older people do to you when you are young. They know that they shouldn’t. You don’t hate them and it’s not that you’ve forgiven them; you rather they just let you live your life and not necessarily have to bring themselves around you.”