The television industry has traditionally been a powerful form of media because of the impact it has. Television simultaneously stimulates human beings’ vision and the auditory canals, creating an impression for compelling and powerful communication messages.
However, much like what has happened in the music industry the internet has caused some changes in the television industry. With internet allowing for streaming capabilities and the ability to download TV series, documentaries and music videos and the likes; this has meant people are now able to control what they want to watch and when. This phenomenon is really shaking up the centralised scheduling of TV programming as we know it. You can imagine what it has done to the predictably of income scheduling from a monetary point of view as well.
The online television space has opened avenues for establishments such as AfroLandTV Network. AfroLandTV’s significance is its mandate to address the lack of representation of African actors/actresses in lead roles, as well as unravelling stories and affairs stemming from the African continent.
To get more insight into AfroLandTV Network, we spoke to Zimbabwean born founder Michael Maponga who is now based in the USA. He opens up to us about the origins of AfroLandTV, the challenges of being a start-up and the industry in general, as well as the ambitions of this “first for Africa” online TV network.
Lavatory Records: Please tell us about AfroLandTV’s beginnings and how it came about?
Michael Maponga: I was born in Zimbabwe, Africa and have always had a passion for film. After moving to the United States, I was given the opportunity to take hold of my acting career. Now my focus is set on an idea, I feel will allow me to give back to Africa. My ability to create, along with hours, days, and months of lateral thinking lead me to create a platform for the amazing filmmakers back home that do not have the resources and outlets to showcase their content. As AfroLandTV makes progress I would like for people to think of it as the “Netflix of Africa”. AfroLandTV strictly showcases Motherland Media; content made in Africa or that envelops African culture without degrading it. At the time of creating AfroLandTV I was currently interning for Stream Now TV, an online streaming network for independent content in the US. I am good friends with the CEO of the company; and when I shared my ideas with him, he gave me advice on how to start my own platform and bring it to life.
LR: Who is Michael Maponga, in regards to your background and interests as the Founder of AfroLandTV?
MM: As stated briefly in my response in the previous question, I have been in the film industry for about 6 years professionally. Acting has always been my passion. But knowing that I love every aspect of film, I do not want to limit myself to just acting. I have always wanted to be something bigger, a role model, and an inspiration to everyone; especially to my people back home in Africa. I never knew how and still do not know how I will attain those attributes of greatness, but I am taking it one step at a time. I’ve been blessed to have worked on many professional productions in my career but as a black actor in the U.S, our big blockbuster roles are limited. You will never see a black actor as Superman, Iron Man etc… Growing up all my favourite superheroes were white. Though there is nothing wrong with that, I feel it is time that we as Africans start telling our own stories; just so the younger generations in Africa can grow up with more diversity in whom they look up to. We have a lot of untold stories in Africa and if the filmmakers got a chance to bring those stories to life, the African film industry will be neck to neck with Hollywood. That’s why I created AfroLandTV, to provide that platform and with God’s grace help expand the African film industry.
LR: Considering that we are in an era where content is consumed rather quickly, how does AfroLandTV acquire content?
MM: There is content everywhere nowadays thanks to the internet. The content acquisition procedure here at AfroLandTV is very simple. I have put together a small team that has been an extra hand with this process. My team and I find most of our content on YouTube, Vimeo, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. Since we’re in the early stages of operation, we currently do not host any content. We embed it but provide a smoother and cleaner look as compared to other streaming sites. The process starts with finding the content, getting in contact with the content producers, and discussing what we do and our vision. It is then up to them to decide whether they want us to showcase their content or not. We are in the BETA version of the site so we do not generate any revenue at this point in time. For now our focus is on the growth; we want to drive traffic to www.AfroLandTV.com and keep those viewers by giving them what they want, good content. This will only happen if the African people accept what I am trying to do and will continuously help me by spreading the word about AfroLandTV. I haven’t started looking or pitching our idea to investors yet because when that time comes I want to have a solidified and proven streaming service with a strong following.
LR: As a start-up there would obviously be challenges of getting off the ground. Of the four categories of content (Film, TV Shows, Documentaries & Music Videos), which category has proved to be the most popular/successful and why (in your opinion)?
MM: Starting out I thought most of the success would come from the film category, FALSE! Our TV Show category has been the most viewed category accounting for 73% of our views. The reason for its success is because people nowadays just love the idea of on-going stories compared to films where if you finish it, it’s done and you have to wait a year or so to see what happens in a sequel. For a TV show you just wait a week or if you’re in luck the platform already has the full season sitting right there waiting to be watched. People enjoy drama and continuously want to be fed that.
LR: What are your thoughts on the changing TV landscape from satellite & analogue to the internet?
MM: I honestly love it. EVERYBODY is on the internet, on any given day you have more people on the internet than those watching TV. So if TV channels are losing viewers then why not deliver TV online to them? The model we want to run at AfroLandTV is the conventional TV standard where everything is free to watch and have advertisers paying the bills for having their ads implemented on our content during pre-rolls, mid-rolls, and post-rolls. Obviously since we are just starting out, we haven’t started monetizing ads yet. Again our main focus at the moment is driving TRAFFIC to AfroLandTV. After we have the fully integrated website running then we will start to work towards generating revenue. The goal is to start that process within a years’ time of operation.
LR: AfroLandTV’s mandate is to bring the best entertainment media on the African continent. Do you feel infrastructure roll out on the continent support the mission and purpose of AfroLandTV’s business model?
MM: Yes I do, four slots of the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world are African countries. Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Mozambique are among the top ten fastest growing economies, according to a report released last week by rating firm Moody’s. Africa also has one of the fastest mobile phone penetrations, rising to 79% by 2020; meaning that most of the mobile users will be engaged to the internet for content to watch. We plan on having an AfroLandTV mobile app once we’re complete with the BETA version.
LR: What do you feel about the saturation of Reality TV content and every famous person having a reality show?
MM: The saturation of Reality TV content is extraordinary. There are a lot of independent reality shows in good production out there and a lot of bad ones. So finding good ones can be a hassle but I am a fan of reality shows. Fans across the world want to see their favourite celebrities up close and personal. The fans want to be able to relate to them, find out what foods they eat, what music they listen to, and how they are when they not in the public eye etc… That’s why reality TV shows are hits.
LR: What are AfroLandTV’s early achievements so far?
MM: We’ve been blessed to have some early achievements. Even though currently we are not generating any revenue, we have a couple of business partnerships we have cultivated. First company to collaborate with us, Your African Safari, is a company that offers independent reviews of African safari tour operators and game parks. The second one is All About Africa, which is a Media/Advertising news outlet that has agreed to publish our content once a week on Fridays for a theme called “Show Night on AfroLandTV presents”. Lastly Stream Now TV Inc. CEO Ron Valderrema has been guiding and mentoring the beginning stages of AfroLandTV.
LR: Are there any special mentions you want to shout out?
Yes, first and foremost God my Lord and saviour for this incredible endeavour, my family and the AfroLandTV team and most importantly, our content producers for believing in our vision and allowing their content to be a part of AfroLandTV. Our business partners Your African Safari, All About Africa and Stream Now TV.