By Victor Enengedi, Senior Correspondent
Talk Show host and TV Producer Mosunmola Abudu, aka Mo Abudu, popularly known for her talk show ‘Moments With Mo’ will, at the end of this month, launch a new cable channel that will air across Africa.
The channel, EbonyLife TV, Africa’s first global black entertainment network, will broadcast all of its programming to over 46 African countries via the DSTV platform, and globally through key TV Channels in the UK, the United States, Brazil, Canada and other parts of Europe.
Speaking through a media release, Ms. Abudu said, ‘the Western media has sold us the best of the West, even Asia has joined that race; it is time to not only sell Africa to the world but to ourselves. And we are now in a position to take indigenous African brands to the rest of the world, giving everyone the best of both worlds – it doesn’t get any better.’
FROM TALK SHOW TO TV CHANNEL
Following the huge success of her talk show ‘Moments with Mo‘, Mo is widely recognized as the Oprah of Nigerian talk shows. Since debuting on TV in 2009, the show has prided itself as the first syndicated daily talk show on African regional television.
With over 200 episodes of the show recorded and aired, with topics ranging from lifestyle, health, culture, politics, entertainment, tradition, to music and inter-racial marriages, the show has now attained a confident leadership position in the media industry within the continent.
Born in London, Mo, as she is fondly called, has a Masters Degree in Human Resources Management from the University of Westminster, London. She is the founder of the Inspire Africa Foundation, a human investment arm of Inspire Africa Ltd.
INVESTMENT AND FUNDING FOR EBONY LIFE TV
A source close to the network told NET over the weekend that the whole project has cost over N2 billion. NET investigations show that the daring media entrepreneur obtained an undisclosed amount of loan facility from a bank (name withheld).
There are also speculations of $2 million in funding from an unconfirmed source, as well as investments from some friends, including billionaire Fola Adeola, Uzoma Onwuchekwa and Lanre Olusola.
Also making a strong presence in the project is the government of Cross River State. In line with the state government’s strategy for development, EbonyLife TV is helping to build a thriving Film, TV and Music industry through strong international partnerships that develop local talent and empower the next generation, by creating a Media and Entertainment hub at Tinapa, which will represent Nigeria, as well as Africa.
‘Setting up a terrestrial television is a lot of budget and investment, not to talk of a cable television‘, said Mcdonald Ayangbe, Head of Productions, Silverbird Networks, Benin City. ‘You would have to consider the procurement of various equipment and facilities; cameras, mixers, monitors and so much more. With this kind of budget, you are talking about hundreds of millions of Naira.’
There has also reportedly been financial support from a few banks, which sources say could include First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) and Diamond Bank. Indications also emerged over the weekend that telecoms giant MTN, who have been one of the major sponsors of Mo’s talk show, have a strong inventory deal with the new channel.
Independent investors to the project have not been not left out. Sources told Nigerian Entertainment Today that Life Coach, Therapist and National Development Strategist, Lanre Olusola is a major stakeholder in the EbonyLife TV project. Another stakeholder in the project is Managing Director, Maverick Communications, Uzoma Onwuchekwa, who has had over 20 years experience in Marketing and Marketing Communications.
Another major investor, NET investigations reveal, is billionaire and founder of Guaranty Trust Bank, Tajudeen Afolabi Adeola, who is also a chairman of one of Abudu’s early companies.
Jide Olaoluwa, Head of External Communication for EbonyLife TV says the channel’s vision is to position African brands where they truly belong. ‘For the first time, Nigerian, and indeed, African high net-worth and even growing brands, will have the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with international brands on a global stage.‘
PREMIERING ON THE DSTV PLATFORM
So, where’s all the money going? There’s the heavy cost of hosting the channel on the DSTV platform. Investigations show that two different models operates when hosting on the cable platform. ‘It’s either DSTV pays you or you pay DSTV, depending on a few modalities and details‘, a source said.
Ola Odunmakin of Multichoice, who declined to tell NET the exact cost of hosting the channel on DSTV, said the information is only known to both companies (EbonyLife TV and Multichoice). ‘All I can say is that these kind of transactions cost a lot of money.’
Insiders say although the channel will enjoy key concessions, Mo is paying her way through, and ELTV is exclusive to DSTV. ‘The channel will not air on other cable platforms here, at least for now‘ one source said.
PROGRAMMING AND CONTENT
The channel, which will be transmitted from its’ Tinapa, Cross River State broadcasting station, is starting on a Pan African scale on the DSTV platform by virtue of a channel distribution agreement signed with Multichoice Africa earlier last year, and a joint venture agreement signed with the Cross River State Government on building Africa’s first global multi-broadcast platform at Studio Tinapa.
EbonyLife hopes to create authentically Nigerian, and indeed African content that is not only original, but interactive and participatory.
‘Most of our programmes are going to be indigenously created, so that we can project a positive Africa to the rest of the world’, a source on the channel said.
‘Since September 2012, there have been several recordings of different programmes going on at our Tinapa Head Quarters where we have our studio, and as soon as we launch, the programmes will begin airing.’
The channel hopes to be the first network and distribution platform in Africa to produce over 700 hours of premium original content made in Africa for a global audience. EbonyLife TV content will include drama, comedy, factual, reality, lifestyle, talk and magazine programming.
Another powerful move which the channel has made is acquiring the services of 13 independent producers to produce film content for TV, a project which a film expert estimates will cost about N2.5 million per production.
It’s speculated that one of the films is ‘New Horizon‘, which features actresses, Kate Henshaw, Rita Dominic, Funke Akindele and Uche Jombo. The film was completed a few months ago and focuses on domestic violence in Nigeria.
NEW BREED OF SHOWS AND HOSTS
In its resolve to stay true to it’s commitment to the vision of being the home of the best of African content and programming available on the continent, the channel has sourced both emerging and well experienced talent, according to our findings.
‘We take pride in the team of experts that we have gathered to achieve this task that has never been done before on the continent. The Company has brought together a world class team of industry experts to make this dream achievable‘, Olaoluwa stated.
The network, we’re told, has over 100 people working from Tinapa, with dozens scattered across the continent, especially Lagos and South Africa. One source told us the channel has over 60 editors currently working.
R&B singers, Banky W and Tiwa Savage have already recorded their jointly-hosted talk show, tentatively titled ‘The Banky and Tiwa Show.’ So far, they have recorded several episodes featuring celebrities such as singer Darey Art Alade, rapper Lynxxx, reality TV winner Karen Igho, comedian Gandoki, and a host of others.
Other exciting programmes to watch out for include the Lamide Akintobi co-hosted ‘The Spot‘ which is a ‘fun and lively magazine talk show that combines entertainment and quirky topics’ according to it’s twitter page. Popular names like Cynthia C’Von Mbanefo, Pamela Ofuegbu and others have also moved to EL.
A Studio 53 co-host Dolapo Oni is also getting ready to join the new channel as a co-host of the new ‘Moments with Mo.’
According to Sandra Amadio, Director of Entertainment Programming, ‘For the first time ever, we are giving Nigerians and Africans an opportunity to share their stories, dreams and aspirations with the world. It could be any story, from overcoming a challenge to building a successful business, starting a new venture, discovering or displaying talent, to nation building and innovation creation, new movie releases and so on.’
As at press time, Ms. Abudu, who is currently away in America, could not be reached for comment. But she’s reportedly told close friends it’s taken over 4 years to make the EL dream come to life.
EbonyLife TV, which already has the blessing of many state governments and, of course, the presidency, will be launched on the DSTV Channel 165 on July 1, 2013.
‘Mo wants to change the game for good‘, one source told us, Sunday evening.
We can’t wait!