Hardly a year after it inked its first African content deal — a multi-year licensing agreement with Nigerian production outfit Inkblot Studios — Amazon Prime Video is primed to expand its footprint on the continent, looking to unlock a largely untapped African consumer market and lock down deals with the continent’s top talents.
“We now have a dedicated local content strategy for the continent across the board, from originals to be developed and produced by Amazon Studios, to an exciting licensing slate with top-tier producers,” said Ned Mitchell, the Los Angeles-based head of originals for Africa and the Middle East for Prime Video and Amazon Studios.
The streamer has made a raft of hirings in the past two years to shore up its Africa team — moving “quickly,” Mitchell admitted, “but with real savvy to find the right local experts who have the right approach that’s deeply respectful to talent and treats them as we only could consider them, which is as our partners.”
Prime Video now has dedicated country teams for both Nigeria and South Africa, the continent’s two largest markets: the former a “100% homegrown Nigerian team” working out of London, and the latter based out of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Mitchell said Prime Video is also “actively exploring the potential of a base of operations in Lagos,” the hub of Nigeria’s booming “Nollywood” film industry.
Last week at the Joburg Film Festival, the company announced its latest African pact, a multi-picture licensing agreement with South Africa’s Known Associates that grants the streamer exclusive SVOD access to over 20 South African feature films. That follows multi-year output deals with top Nigerian producers Inkblot (“The Set Up 2,” “Moms at War 2”) and Anthill Studios (“Prophetess,” “Day of Destiny”).
Last August, the company signed a three-year overall deal with Nigerian multi-hyphenate Jáde Osiberu, the creator of domestic box-office sensations “Sugar Rush” and “Isoken,” which will include original scripted dramas and features from Osiberu’s production company Greoh Studios. “It’s unprecedented for Africa, not just a two- or three-movie slate deal,” Mitchell said. “This is a true overall deal where we are investing in her as a talent and a magnet for other talent.”
Osiberu’s latest, the action movie “Brotherhood,” dropped last week on Prime Video. Next up from her Greoh Studios is the crime-thriller “Gangs of Lagos,” the first African Amazon Original movie. Directed and produced by Osiberu, it will be released on the streaming service later this year with what Mitchell called “a global launch that we expect to hopefully suck in the whole world.”
As subscriber growth stalls for streaming giants across much of the globe, growing and underserved markets like Africa — with a population of 1.2 billion — represent a key component of their future plans. Attracting top talents remains a priority to bring in local subscribers. Last year, Prime Video also opened up local currency services for the platform in Nigeria, signaling its designs on a market of some 200 million plus potential subscribers.
The agreement with Osiberu is a sign of where the streaming giant is headed as it ramps up investment in Africa. “That’s a really key part of how we want to grow, whether it’s in South Africa or Nigeria or beyond: partnering with talent who understand how to work with other talent and can be ‘idea magnets’ as well, and who want to develop and want to work with us from the ground up on their ideas,” said Mitchell.
Though both Prime Video and its chief rival, Netflix, were available to consumers in some African markets as early as 2016, the Los Gatos-based streamer was the first to make significant inroads with African creators, dropping its first original series from the continent, “Queen Sono,” back in 2020.
Mitchell, however, said Prime Video is making the “boots-on-the-ground investment” to take poll position in the race for African talent.
“We want to make sure that we’re really telling the stories of whole communities that have never even been able to see their stories on camera before,” he said. “And we think that the new standard that we’re hoping to create, in working and producing premium content, will attract all African storytellers and crews and talent who want to join us in creating those stories. And if we can get that right, I really don’t think there’s a limit to where we can go next.”