'Mali' is NTV's response to imported telenovelas

With a plot pulled from the headlines and a cast drawn from across the continent, a Kenyan skein is looking to push local dramatic series in a bold new direction.

Mali,” which airs three times a week on private web NTV, is the first Kenyan drama to break from the traditional weekly format.

The show’s producers say it’s an attempt to wean local audiences off the wildly popular Latin American telenovelas.

“We are so in love with (the telenovelas), but we also have our own beautiful stories to tell,” says Alison Ngibuini, the series’ creator.

The idea to shift to a soap-style, thrice-weekly format was prompted by the growing demand from viewers for local content.

According to Sharleen Samat, program manager of NTV, which is co-producing the series, Kenyan broadcasters in the past few years have seen remarkable growth in such programming.

The show is Kenya’s most ambitious production to date, with NTV and Ngibuini inking a two-year, 326-episode deal.

“Mali” launches amid signs of new life for Kenya’s TV biz, with the nation preparing to move to digital in the next few years, while close to 40 broadcasting licenses have already been issued.

With legislation on the table requiring Kenyan webs to air at least 40% local content, cash-strapped producers are hoping the flood of new channels will lead to fresh investment in local productions. n

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