Sign of the hard times: Ebony Life TV embarks on cost-cutting after cancelling two of its biggest shows

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  • Four years after it was founded, the television network is struggling with rising overhead and talent costs.

Ebony Life Executive Chairman and CEO, Mo Abudu at the 2013 launch.

When it launched with much fanfare in Calabar in 2013, Ebony Life Television touted itself as Nigeria’s pan-African international television network; and with good reason.

The founder, Mo Abudu has proved herself to be a successful TV producer after the wide acceptance of her talk show, Moments With Mo.

With decades of running several thriving businesses under her belt, the combination of her passion for television and her access to financial resources, starting a major television network seemed like a valid next step for Mo.

READ: Mo Abudu’s EbonyLife TV expands operations to Lagos and Abuja

But four years later, Ebony Life is undergoing an unlikely restricting: it is embarking on cost-cutting moves to stay afloat. In the last three months, the television network has cancelled its two biggest shows, The Crunch and in this past week, The Spot.

This may not be far removed from the tough economic conditions in Nigeria over the last two years. A number of businesses have downsized while many others shut down.

Mo Abudu shows guests around the Tinapa studios for EL TV’s first anniversary in 2014.

In the case of EL TV however, many observers have wondered how sustainable it was from the beginning.

The choice of the white elephant Tinapa Resort in Cross River seemed like an odd location for a new television network.

ALSO: Mo Abudu’s Ebony Life TV to launch in June

It was explained as a promising venture that will create an entertainment hub in that part of the country.

Alas, it hasn’t exactly happened that way. The Tinapa project has yet to yield major results and the bulk of the company’s operations was relocated to Lagos in 2015.

At the end of Q1 2017, the shows that most viewers tuned to EL TV for were cancelled.

First to go was The Crunch, barely a year after it was revamped from its former format, EL Reports. In December 2016, its charismatic presenter, Arit Okpo announced she was leaving the TV station. She wasn’t replaced and neither was the show.

 

Only this last week, The Spot, which was hosted by the trio of Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, Lamide Akintobi and Zainab Balogun announced the end of its run.

Ebuka had been the first to leave in November 2016, ostensibly due to his baby daughter being born. But as we have seen on Big Brother Naija, daddy duties has not stopped him from being on television.

Although there are a handful of other shows on EL TV – EL Now, Mens’ Corner, EL R8, Moments, among others, none of these reached the acclaim that The Crunch and The Spot did.

No prize for guessing this was due more to the charisma of the hosts than the shows themselves.

An inside source informed us that Ebony Life management is currently streamlining its operations such that its shows are taped over the course of six months and shown over the other six months of a year.

ALSO: Mo Abudu’s ‘FIFTY’ grosses over N400m through various revenue generating streams

 

They are resorting to this to cut costs and make for a more affordable model instead of keeping and paying their talent all year round. Some producers are said to be already searching for jobs elsewhere.

A quick look at the schedule gives credence to that logic: each day of the week has been themed and programming has been tagged according to each theme.

Some of the programmes on EL

However, the company has invested in creating original content along with a number of other licensed shows and hopes that this sustains it on the long run.

Still, it is impossible not to notice the massive changes in its operations. While talk shows end at some point, at Ebony Life talk shows are what make it stands out, not the several dramas that are available elsewhere (Shuga) or just not interesting to the audience (Sons of The Caliphate).

Like Mo Abudu’s role model, Oprah Winfrey found out when she switched the Oprah Show for OWN, she also may have found that running a network is quite different from hosting a show.

It remains to be seen though, if like Oprah she too will takeover as Chief Creative Officer and bring in the calvary.

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