The broadcast code recently issued by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) may truncate the recently signed partnership between the United States streaming service, Netflix, and Mo Abudu’s EbonyLife TV.
The partnership to create two original series and Netflix-branded films was announced last week as part of Netflix’s continued expansion into Africa. Its announcement, however, coincided with the loud disapproval of the sixth NBC Code by prominent creative industry figures, who lashed out at provisions on exclusivity and undisguised attempt to legislate prices at which content will be sub-licensed among other issues.
Broadcast industry sources explained that sections 9.0.1 to 9.0.3 of the code, which proscribe exclusivity, make content sharing with competitors mandatory and the NBC the final arbiter in the event of a disagreement over content prices between the rights owner and a licencee on areas that will occupy the attention of Netflix.
A content creator, Tosan Igbene, explained that Netflix goes into exclusive-only partnerships, and as such, may consider pulling the plug on the deal with EbonyLife TV if the NBC begins to implement the code.
He said: “Since the code prohibits exclusivity, it means that whatever EbonyLife TV produces could end up on other platforms. That will negate the exclusive agreement. Importantly too, Netflix will hesitate at the prospect of the NBC determining what price it should charge as sub-licencing fees. The fact is that these sections and the whole code, as well as produced without stakeholders’ consultation will kill the Nigerian broadcasting industry.”
Another content creator, Boye Dare, contended that no investor will fold its arms and watch a regulation jeopardise its investments.
“Netflix are here for business and they will not like anything that threatens their well-being. The NBC Code seeks to legislate on when and whom to sell to as well as the price. The code is a threat to the partnership with EbonyLive TV and of course, Nollywood,” Dare said.
Last week, reports emerged that Netflix, IrokoTV, Amazon and Africa Magic may end the investments in Nigeria because of the NBC Code. A few days later, the Chief Executive Officer of Iroko TV, Jason Njoku, in widely circulated tweets, blasted the NBC and accused it of trying to damage the industry.
He explained that only 20 per cent of IrokoTV’s revenue comes from Nigeria, where 90 per cent of the revenue is spent on acquisition of content, adding that the pay television business thrives on exclusivity and monopoly around the world.
“Pay TV is a unique business that globally structurally tends to a monopoly. It requires unbelievable amounts of investments upfront for decades before it makes sense. Netflix doesn’t really have a comparable rival today but still has been -$10 billion (negative) cash flow in the last five years,” he said.
Following criticisms last week, the NBC, in a statement said its board would meet this week to consider stakeholders’ input. NBC sources, however, disclosed that the board was not carried along by the management in drafting the code.
According to sources, the finer details of the code have been kept away from Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, who last week gushed at the announcement of the deal with EbonyLife TV, saying: “Coming after Netflix’s first Nigeria original film, Lionheart, this is a great recognition of the immense creative talents that abound in Nigeria and the provision of a global platform for Nigeria storytelling.”