Guest post: Africa, Entertainment & the Digital Revolution

In an exclusive article for HumanIPO, Jean-Michel Koenig, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at global media and entertainment company Triggerfish Animation, discusses the future of online entertainment.

It’s not possible to pick-up the financial press these days without reading about the enormous investment opportunity in Africa, as millions of people move into the middle-classes. Access to technology and the internet is improving and millions of people are beginning to find their digital voice. These are exciting times.

For the first time ever, an African animation studio has been nominated for the animation industry’s Oscars, the Annie Awards. Triggerfish Animation Studios received two nominations: for Best Music and Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production. We at Triggerfish are super proud, and excited, that not only has our first film received two nominations, but also that Africa’s voice in animation is finally being heard in Hollywood and on the world-stage. Through our films, we are helping to change perceptions of Africa and hope to inspire a continent.

The rise of technology and the explosion of mobile phones and social networks mean that many of Africa’s citizens can now be heard and give voice to their communities. No longer can oppressive governments control the media’s narrative. Power is shifting to the people.

The digital revolution is also having a dramatic impact on entertainment. There is a massive shift to online entertainment and great stories are first being discovered on the internet as opposed to the traditional mediums of TV, radio, and newspapers. Tomorrow’s billion-dollar entertainment franchise will probably first appear on the internet.

The production value of online entertainment continues to rise. YouTube wants to create more original content and have launched a new production facility and studio complex in an old helicopter hanger in Los Angeles. The old way of doing things is changing, but it will take time. Given the sheer sums of money involved in making a high-quality film or TV series, we shouldn’t expect the filmed entertainment business to follow the trajectory of the music or book publishing industries. Too much is at stake and Hollywood has the firepower to resist the Apples and Googles of the world – for now.

The business model for high-quality productions on the internet has yet to mature. Earnings estimates for one of most successful YouTube videos ever, Gangham Style, with over 930m views, are a little over $800,000. That’s not great and it doesn’t offer a path to profitability for high-quality content producers. A cinema ticket costs around $9 per person. That difference means that premium content will continue to find its way to the cinema and TV networks who are prepared to pay for it, with advertisers happy to pay a premium.

Nollywood has one of the world’s biggest film industries when measured by output. Nigerian production values are low, but over time they will increase in line with a more affluent society who will demand better quality entertainment. Respecting intellectual property rights and paying for quality content needs to become the norm across the continent. If content creators cannot get paid, quality content will disappear. Theatrical distribution is not well-developed in Africa and perhaps the cinema will never become the primary place where films are brought to market on the continent. This will force producers to think hard about how they bring their stories to the public. Alternative distribution systems will become a reality in Africa because there is no choice.

No one knows what the future of filmed entertainment holds, but at Triggerfish we are hugely excited about bringing the continent’s unique creative voice to Hollywood and audiences around the world. We have a story to tell and hope that we can inspire other Africans to bring their big ideas to the world. It’s our time.

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