•Netflix, Iroko Trail
A recent survey carried out by THISDAY and supported by Dorinda Afrika Ltd on 41 individuals from different walks of life revealed that Africa Magic, a platform on cable TV, DStv, is the preferred choice for Nollywood films.
The findings showed that while 50 per cent of the respondents are active Netflix subscribers, only 21.1 per cent watch Nollywood films on the platform.
Africa Magic claims 50 per cent of that population followed by Iroko TV, the video-on-demand platform with 15.8 per cent. Those who admitted that they watch most Nollywood films in cinemas were 10.5 per cent. The rest claimed they watch Nollywood films on Facebook.
Interestingly, 15.8 percent of the respondents preferred going to the cinema to watch movies rather than subscribe to a monthly plan to view content because of the outdoor experience, but as the pandemic has forced most cinemas to shut down, they are glued to their TV screens or mobile devices.
This showed that the cinema culture, which received a boom in the 2000s following Silverbird Group opening of its cinemas chain, has not yet penetrated every nook and cranny of society. Most cinemas in Nigeria are concentrated in the highbrow areas of the city, giving only the rich easy access to the multiplexes.
Though there has been an increasing demand for cinemas in the country, the survey finding is a pointer to the fact that streaming platforms like Netflix and Cable TV are winning the viewing war.
The reasons for subscribing to a monthly plan, however, vary for most of the respondents. From convenience, affordability to easy access and quality of movies, these individuals explained that they preferred to view content at home.
Out of the 41 respondents, only 78 per cent affirmed that they watch Nollywood films regularly. Others watch when necessary or by accident.
The findings also showed that romantic comedies and comedy genres appeal to consumers more. Both genres were the preferred choice for 29.3 per cent of the participants. There is also an appetite for short films with 7.3 per cent preferring it to thrillers and action thrillers which had 14.6 and 12.2 per cent respectively. Only a tiny fraction chose horror and animation as their favourites. Surprisingly, the percentage who loved romantic comedies had more males than females.
Last year, Nollywood’s submission to the distinguished global film awards, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) popularly known as the Oscars for the Best Foreign Language Film was thrown out of the window because the submitted film ‘Lionheart’ was majorly in English language. The category recognised films which have a high percentage of its dialogue in an indigenous language (that is non-English language). The outcry that followed that missed opportunity sparked discourse on the need to promote our diverse languages in films.
However, when respondents were asked which language film they preferred, 80.5 per cent stuck with English language, while 12.2 per cent preferred films in pidgin language. The rest preferred Yoruba and Ibo languages films.
Last February, Netflix announced its plans to produce original Nigerian content. That piece of news was greeted with fanfare. Top executives of the streamer flew into the country, a Netflix Naija Twitter was created, the billing currency was changed from dollars to Naira and top 10 Netflix films/TV series feature was added to the app. All of these were done to solidify the relationship between the film industry and the global streamer, which started before the acquisition of Genevieve Nnaji’s film ‘Lionheart’ in 2018. However, it was Nnaji’s film that made many filmmakers consider distributing their films on the platform.
At the 2019 edition of the Nigerian International Film Summit, Group Executive Director of FilmOne Entertainment, Moses Babatope, disclosed that Netflix acquired 34 Nollywood titles from the distribution company.
Before the end of the last quarter of 2019, Netflix had an impressive number of Nollywood films in their rich vault.
That trend continues this year as Nollywood filmmakers hoped to reach the over 160 million subscribers of the platform worldwide at the time. Netflix revealed recently in its first quarter earnings of the year that it added nearly 16 million subscribers, bringing its total membership to over 180 million. What this means is that a Nollywood film has the opportunity to reach at least one quarter of that population.
Netflix is known for being secretive with its viewing numbers. The company barely releases the exact figures of viewings on the platform. It considers a two-minute viewing on a particular show as a view. By so doing, viewers need not watch the film completely before the company counts it as a view for the TV show or film.
With the growing criticisms of the secrecy, the platform rolled out the top 10 features. The feature was to help critics as well as filmmakers know the success of their films.
When the feature was rolled out for Nigeria last February, ‘Queen Sono’, the South African TV series which marked the first original TV content from the continent enjoyed the number one spot. Other Nollywood films like ‘The Ghost and the Tout’ also made the top 10 list. Subsequent weeks had fewer Nollywood films on the list. ‘Alakada Reloaded’ was the last film to enjoy the spot as at the time of compiling this report. This begs the question of whether Nigerians watch Nollywood films on Netflix.
Despite the low turnout of Nollywood films on Netflix, most of the participants welcomed the idea of Netflix sourcing new content in Nigeria. Before it suspended productions in many countries apart from South Korea, filmmaker and director, Akin Omotoso, was commissioned to produce a Nigerian TV series for the streamer.
According to the participants, Nollywood is underrated and has a lot of potential that is yet untapped. Four persons out of the 33 that responded to this question thought that the film industry lacked the required resources and creativity to meet the standards of the platform. The rest were indecisive.
Notwithstanding, 65 per cent of the overall participants were confident that the Nollywood films available on Netflix have a global appeal. Films like ‘The Wedding Party’ which broke box office records in 2016 are some of the Nollywood films on the streamer’s vault. Five per cent strongly stated that the films lack global appeal while 30 per cent preferred to stay ambivalent.
The survey showed that Kemi Adetiba’s film ‘King of Boys’ and Nnaji’s ‘Lionheart’ have been viewed more than other Nollywood films on Netflix since the lockdown. ‘Isoken’, ‘Up North’ and Merry Men: The Real Yoruba Demons’ follow closely.
When compared to Hollywood films on Netflix, 45 per cent strongly opined that Nollywood, the third largest producing film industry in the world is a far cry from Hollywood. Those who thought otherwise stood at 37.5 per cent. The rest were unsure.
Out of the 31 participants who responded to the question on whether Netflix is what Nollywood needs now, 24 affirmed that indeed Nollywood needs the streamer to project its image to the international audience. “It’s a good step ahead for progress in the industry,” wrote Grace, a sales manager in a beverage company.
The rest partly agreed that the industry, which has battled distribution challenges such as piracy, needs to explore the streamer.
While streaming and TV platforms have witnessed a surge since the pandemic, 37.5 per cent of the respondents disclosed that they have not watched any Nollywood film since the lockdown. For those in this category, films like the Spanish hit TV series ‘Money Heist’ and ‘Locked Up’ are their bingeing favourites.