Barely 24 hours after setting up an official Twitter account and announcing its presence in Nigeria with a picture that shows some of the A-Listers in the Nigerian film industry, Netflix Naija already has well over 12,000 followers.
That’s an indication of how well the information that the global online streaming-on-demand media provider (Netflix) and producer is finally ready to bet on Nollywood, one of the largest film industries in the world.
Currently available in nearly 200 countries (including 54 countries in Africa), the subscription-based streaming service which Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph first launched in the U.S. as the world’s first online DVD rental store, with only 30 employees and 925 titles available, has grown into a giant with 167 million subscribers globally and annual revenue of USD 15.8 Bn.
The latest move for Nigeria could be construed as a move by Netflix to invest in more local content and boost subscriber base in the continent where it has its lowest number of streamers, especially a time when “streaming wars” with newer players like Apple TV, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ threaten to get even more cut-throat back home.
Already, Netflix has achieved its first original African series in “Queen Sono” which is scheduled for release on February 28. Queen Sono tells the story of a secret agent from South Africa is searching for the truth about her mother’s murder while also protecting her country from dark forces.
And according to the US streaming service, Queen Sono is just the beginning.
“This is exactly what we’re going for,” Netflix told DW. “African thrillers, entertaining, and smart political dramas.”
Netflix says it wants to tell local stories with a global appeal, which is why the company seems to be fraternizing and flirting with Nigerian movie stars and top filmmakers including Ramsey Noah, Omoni Oboli, Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD), Adesua Etomi, Kunle Afolayan, and several others.
Netflix’s Nigerian ambitions may have been evident for some time now. In 2018, the popular American streaming platform acquired the worldwide rights for Genevieve Nnaji’s “Lionheart.” This acquisition was Netflix’s first original project from Nigeria.
Since then, the service has acquired several Nollywood movies and series including blockbuster movies like “King of Boys” and “Chief Daddy.”
If the rumours are true, Netflix is about to add two unnamed original Nigerian series currently in the works.
The news of the unnamed original series from Nigeria follows from a development in December 2018 in which Netflix announced plans to commission original series from Africa.
Since then, the streaming giant has commissioned a Zambian animation series called “Mama K’s Team 4,” which is expected to premiere in April, and two South African series -“Blood and Series” (still in production) and the soon-to-be-released “Queen Sono.”
Data from Digital TV Research in London estimate that there are fewer than 1.5 million Netflix subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa, of which most are from South Africa.
Netflix has plans to grow its subscriber base in Africa to 5 million by 2025 and the company seems to have identified locally-sourced content as one way to go about it.
Analysts predict that the market for streaming in sub-Saharan Africa will surpass USD 1 Bn by 2024. For perspective, that figure was just USD 223 Mn as recently as 2018.
However, Netflix has its work cut out for it as the company will not only be trying to find a way around the steep internet costs and connectivity problems that are prevalent in Africa, but also be going toe to toe with local established players like South African provider, Showmax, and Nigerian company, IrokoTV.