Amazon’s Deeper Roots In Nollywood: What It Means For Local Creatives In Africa’s Most Productive Movie Hub

Published 1 year ago
In this photo illustration, a hand holding a TV remote

As the battle to acquire customers and retain eyeballs intensifies for streaming platforms, Amazon becomes the latest to court original partnerships with Africa’s movie hub, Nollywood.

“Nigerian content is seen by a lot of people all over the world and it is a good opportunity to set up shop here.” – James Farrell, Head of Local Originals for Amazon Studios

Following the move by Netflix, the world’s largest streaming platform boasting a subscriber base of 220 million, streaming service Amazon has also recently set up shop in one of the world’s biggest filmmaking hubs, the Nigerian movie market, also known as Nollywood.

The company is making a number of hires for its original local team in Nigeria following a series of visits by global heads James Farrell, Head of Local Originals for Amazon Studios, and Ayanna Lonian, Amazon Prime Video’s Director of Content Acquisition and Head of World Wide Major Studio Licensing Strategy.

“When you look at the world, there are really five countries that have proven the ability to make great content that can really travel outside their home base. You have countries like the USA, UK, South Korea, [India] and Nigeria is right in there. Nigerian content is seen by a lot of people all over the world and it is a good opportunity to set up shop here,” says Farrell to FORBES AFRICA.

For the past three years, the company has been on a hunt for some of the best content creators in Africa’s most populous economy and has used film festivals like the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) as a courting ground to uncover the next global hits out of Nollywood.

“We have this great team in the United States who make the likes of The Lord of The Rings, The Boys and Coming to America, and then we have the acquisitions team that go around the world and say what movies or TV shows have already been done so can buy it.”

“My team does however focus on what 10 or 20 titles can we add to the service to make sure it’s the best we have in Nigeria. So, if we are going to have a great service for Nigerians, it means we are going to have to make great content locally so we need to go out there and meet those folks who are creating that content,” says Farrell.

And Nigeria’s Inkblot Studios, with successful Nollywood blockbusters to their name, were at the top of Amazon’s list. The company has recently signed a three-year licensing deal with the Nigerian-based studio in a deal which provides exclusive worldwide distribution rights for Prime Video for the company’s theatrical releases from 2022.

“This is Amazon’s first exclusive output agreement with a leading African film studio and we are super excited to see more of such deals as we establish deeper roots in Nollywood,” says Lonian to FORBES AFRICA.

“This three-year licensing deal is historic and it’s the first of its kind which is a testament to all the amazing work Inkblot has done over the years. The deal will run through to 2024 and will push our upcoming releases unto Prime Video after we show it in local cinemas. This gives us a long-term focus

on our deals where we could potentially explore intellectual property deals and franchise potentials on some of our existing titles,” says Zulumoke Oyibo, one of the co-founders of Inkblot Studios.

Amazon Prime Video has about 150 million subscribers according to Farrell most of whom are in the US. Expanding outside its home base to find greener pastures in international markets like Africa, India and Japan is seen as a strategic imperative for streaming platforms to continue growing following saturation in the US.

Most recently, Disney + also launched its service in South Africa. Boasting 129.8 million subscribers worldwide according to the platform as of the first quarter of 2022, the company is taking a different approach by launching on the local DStv platform to attract customers already on the platform to subscribe to its rich content of Marvel films and children’s classics.

Both Amazon and Disney are looking to catch up on the success Netflix has had internationally with hits like the Spanish crime thriller Money Heist and the South Korean viral sensation Squid Game. In Africa, the platform commissioned its first Africa original series which starred South African actress Pearl Thusi as Queen Sono almost five years ago. Following that, there has been a string of acquisitions as well as multi-year licensing deals with Nigeria’s prolific movie producer Mo Abudu.

“We believe that Nigerian films have a truly global appeal and are thrilled to be working with Amazon Prime Video to deliver the very best in entertainment worldwide,” says Oyibo.