×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Nigeria Looks to Formats to Boost TV Biz

Producers ready for homegrown hits as brands drive growing market

CANNES — With the market for global TV formats rapidly evolving, and the balance of power shifting from traditional stalwarts like the U.S., the U.K. and the Netherlands to new players like Turkey, South Korea, Israel, and Japan, Nigerian bizzers are hoping a format boom could emerge from Africa’s most populous nation.

Fourteen years after Ultima Studios struck gold with the Nigerian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” paving the way for a surge of unscripted formats like “Big Brother Naija” and “Nigerian Idol,” local producers are energized by a fast-growing TV sector in a country that last year emerged from its worst recession in 25 years.

Across Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city and entertainment capital, new studios are being built. Years of investment in the country’s homegrown Nollywood film industry – long known for its low budgets and shoddy production values – has helped to raise technical standards. Meanwhile, mobile penetration and consumption is rising, while the impending digital transition is expected to introduce a host of new, content-hungry broadcasters.

“The market is there for the taking,” said Neil Oyenekan, managing director and CEO of Lighthouse Television & Filmworks, at a panel discussion at Mipformats on Sunday. “The only thing [missing] is the content itself.”

For the past decade, the Nigerian market has been dominated by international heavyweights like “Millionaire” and “Project Fame West Africa.” Proven formats continue to grab a foothold in Nigeria: Last month, Ultima inked deals with Sony and FremantleMedia, respectively, to produce local versions of “Lion’s Den” and “Family Feud.”

But “there is a bit of an evolution now,” according to Duncan Irvine, CEO of South African production company Rapid Blue, which has spent close to a decade working in Nigeria. That’s opened the door for original formats that local production companies can export to the rest of the world.

That process is still in its early stages. “We’re just entering that phase whereby we’re getting the kind of investment required to make formats that we can take globally,” said Oyenekan, who said a homegrown format could be ready for international markets as soon as Mipcom this year.

Nigerian producers don’t have the same safety net as their counterparts in more developed markets, where a knock-out idea could be enough to secure funding from a broadcaster. Local networks won’t commit to a new show unless it arrives fully-financed, with producers doing the legwork to get brands on board before buying air time from the broadcaster.

Convincing corporates to hitch their brand to an untested format isn’t necessarily a system that rewards moon-shot ideas from producers willing to take risks. But the upside in Nigeria is a massive youth demo, with more than 60% of the population under the age of 25. Advertisers have taken notice. “All of the biggest brands in the world are there, and…we’re seeing them invest in content,” said Oyenekan.

Nigerian producers are hoping to see more success stories like “Gulder Ultimate Search,” a homegrown format sponsored by Nigerian Breweries Plc. Still, most brands proceed with caution, and that takes time. “These [projects] are coming from brands, and not networks, so it’s a longer gestation period,” said Oyenekan. “But it’s beginning to happen.”

More TV

  • Acorn TV

    AMC’s Best-of-British Streamer Acorn TV Launches in 30 New Territories

    Acorn TV launched in 30 new markets Tuesday, the biggest wave of international launches to date for the AMC-owned streaming service, which focuses on British and English-language drama. The platform is now live in Australasia, Spain, the Nordics, the Benelux countries and South Africa. The international rollout started in June, when Acorn TV launched in a [...]

  • NBCU Reality Streaming Service Hayu Launches

    NBCU’s Reality Streaming Service Hayu Launches in Three New Territories (EXCLUSIVE)

    It’s easier to keep up with the Kardashians in the Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg after NBCUniversal launched its reality-TV streaming service, hayu, in those countries Tuesday. The service went live with about 6,000 episodes of unscripted fare from NBCUniversal’s lineup, including “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” “Made in Chelsea” and “The Real Housewives” and [...]

  • Arrow -- "Elseworlds, Part 2" --

    'Elseworlds, Part 2' Recap: Batwoman's 'Arrowverse' Story Begins

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Elseworlds, Part 2” the second part of the 2018 “Arrowverse” crossover, which aired Dec. 10. “Arrow’s” leg of the “Elseworlds” crossover had a little more to think about than “The Flash’s,” mainly because it served as the first introduction to Ruby Rose’s Batwoman. For [...]

  • Michael Uslan's U2K Becomes Asia-Hollywood Formats

    Michael Uslan's U2K Becomes Asia-Hollywood Formats Pipeline (EXCLUSIVE)

    Michael and David Uslan, the father and son producing team with credits that include “The Dark Knight” and “Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch” have struck a cluster of deals that makes them a two-way conduit for TV formats between Hollywood and Asia. U2K, a company that includes the Uslans and Jon Karas (“Believe in [...]

  • Court TV Brand to Resurface as

    Court TV Brand to Resurface as New Channel From Scripps Co.

    Court TV is back in session. The cable TV channel that once carried gavel-to-gavel live coverage of high-profile trials will be revived by a new owner, nearly a dozen years after it was shuttered by Turner Broadcasting. Katz Networks, a division of E.W. Scripps Co., plans to revive Court TV as a new channel designed [...]

  • Gina Rodriguez Carmen Sandiego

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's Carmen Sandiego Series With Gina Rodriguez Sets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix announced a premiere date for its upcoming Carmen Sandiego series and Stars released the premiere date for its original comedy series “Now Apocalypse.” DATES Lifetime will debut a new Gretchen Carlson documentary Jan. 14 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, Variety has learned exclusively. The two-hour special titled “Gretchen Carlson: Breaking [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content