Buni is the Swahili word for innovation and serves as the inspiration for a Kenya-
based multimedia company that incorporates a production and online distribution arm.
Users of Buni TV, the independent African video-on-demand (VOD) streaming service
that launched in April 2012, have watched 200 000 hours of content to date.
Buni TV is operational on the web (www.buni.tv) as well as on iPhones, Android and
Blackberry smart phones across the globe.
A division of Buni Media, Buni TV differs from most African VOD platforms in that it is
highly curated. Content emanates from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and
Says company co-founder and CEO, Marie Lora-Mungai: “Our team of editors is
constantly looking for new content of high technical quality. This means that videos
should be produced professionally, with proper lighting and sound. We are open to all
stories and genres, but we tend to prefer content that feels modern, is exciting and
reflects contemporary themes and ideas.’
She notes that it is quite challenging to source content. “Africa is not organised
through a studio system like the US or Europe, which means that we have to deal
with hundreds of independent producers. The VOD space is only just emerging on the
continent, so we have to educate content providers on market potential, which
takes quite a bit of time and effort. But generally filmmakers respond in a very
enthusiastic way and appreciate Buni TV’s commitment to develop the African film
The Buni TV catalogue is positioned to speak to the modern African experience, as
well as the diaspora, and includes films that touch on topics that are likely to
connect with the audience. Producers are welcome to submit their work to
Lora-Mungai continues: “Ultimately we’d love to give our users access to
international films like Beasts of the Southern Wild or The Intouchables.
“Through our content partnership with the Senegal-based AfricaFilms.tv, we have a
combined catalogue of over 1 000 titles. But what you’ll find on Buni TV is a curated
portion of that catalogue.’
Buni TV does not shy away from content that may be deemed controversial and
recently added Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s The President to its offering. Banned in
Cameroon, the film clearly refers to the country’s real-life leader, Paul Biya, and
questions what the failing health of Africa’s few remaining dictators-for-life mean for
Also available on www.buni.tv is other controversial fare such as Fuelling Poverty, a
Nigerian documentary about a fuel subsidy scam that was banned in Nigeria.
“The XYZ Show, produced by Buni Media, is one of the continent’s top political satire
shows with an audience of 10 million on television and radio in Kenya. You can find all
episodes of the show on Buni TV minutes after they’ve aired on television,’
Buni TV is based on a “freemium’ subscription model, with its premium service set to
launch in the next couple of months. Currently viewers can enjoy a range of free
videos on the platform, and soon full-length feature films and TV shows will be
available for a monthly subscription fee.
Advertising is envisaged as a possible revenue stream in the future, although digital
advertising in Africa is still new.
About 50% of the Buni TV’s traffic originates from Kenya while 40% of the total
traffic comes from North America and Europe. Forty-three percent of Buni TV’s
African audience accesses the site from a mobile device.
The Buni TV site was designed by Barbara Muriungi and built by Asilia.
Buni Media’s The XYZ Show was inspired by Guignols de l’Info, which is the French
equivalent of the UK’s legendary and long-running series, Spitting Image.
“Several countries around the world have produced similar satirical puppet shows,
and they are typically crowd-pleasers,’ comments Lora-Mungai. “My partner, the
cartoonist who goes by the pen name of “Gado’, and I launched Africa’s first take on
the Spitting Image concept in early 2009 in Kenya.’
Each year Buni Media produces two seasons of 13 x 24-minute episodes. As The XYZ
Show is a current affairs show and needs to reflect the latest news, it is written and
shot the week before it airs.
“When we started the show we had to build a puppet workshop, including a cold
room and custom kiln and train puppet makers from scratch in Nairobi. Our puppets
are made of foam latex, which involves mixing various chemicals at a precise
temperature. Manipulating them is also quite challenging and requires two puppeteers
per puppet. And let’s not forget the voice talents who provide much of the humour in
the show. About 60 people work directly on The XYZ Show,’ says Lora-Mungai.
The writing team comprises Lily Wanjiku, Edward Khaemba, Titus Maina, Julian
Macharia and Loi Odhiambo.
Several politicians parodied on the show have complained personally to broadcaster
NTV, but it has never gone further than that. Lora-Mungai notes that now that the
show is protected by its popularity, politicians prefer to visit the studios and shake
hands with their puppets, rather than fight the production team.
The XYZ Show recently celebrated its 100th episode.