LAGOS — “I’m not a TV person,” says Mo Abudu, the talkshow sensation often referred to as “Africa’s Oprah.”
Though her career has been inspired by the American media mogul, Abudu says comparisons between them are unfair.
“I have drawn inspiration from Oprah, but our journeys are not the same,” she says.
Abudu’s TV journey began with a desire to tell Africa’s story in a new and interesting way, she says. That dream will get a big boost with the launch of EbonyLife TV, a new network set to bow on South African pay-TV platform DStv early next year. It marks the first time that a fully Nigerian-owned entertainment channel will be carried by the platform.
The net will build on the star’s success since she first conquered African airwaves with her talkshow, “Moments With Mo.”
Abudu followed an unlikely path to TV stardom. Born to Nigerian parents in the U.K., she moved to Lagos in 1993, and launched a corporate career that included a stint with ExxonMobil, the founding of her own consulting firm, and the opening of a hotel in Lagos.
It wasn’t until 2006 that she approached South Africa’s M-Net with the idea for “Moments With Mo,” a talkshow that quickly drew comparisons with Oprah’s eponymous skein. The series was an instant smash, becoming the first syndicated daily talkshow on the continent. The strip’s can-do tagline — “If you can think it, you can do it” — reflects the inspirational mantra behind EbonyLife.
The goal of the new network, says Abudu, is to produce content that gives young people hope across the continent. She argues that the channel’s 18- to 35-year-old target demographic remains underserved by African media, apart from music-driven channels like MTV Base and Channel O.
“There’s no TV that speaks to them,” Abudu says. “These are the people that 10 years from now are going to be running the continent, and we’re not engaging them.”
For EbonyLife, Abudu plans to introduce a mix of original reality, drama, newsmagazines and talkshows, along with imported content that addresses issues relevant to black audiences in Africa and its diaspora.
The web will have three heads of content — from Nigeria, South Africa, and the U.S. “We want to make sure that the content we produce has global appeal,” Abudu says.
With pre-production on original content already under way, she’s now searching for other pay-TV platforms to help the channel expand its reach overseas.
“The vision is a global vision for EbonyLife,” she says.