Anyone who has worked in the film industry in Africa for any length of time knows the importance of cooperation and collaboration. Perhaps more than in other regions around the world, Africa presents many challenges to emerging filmmakers and content producers. However, the sheer vastness of the continent, the expense of internal travel, the difficulties in transferring money, and even language barriers make cooperation and collaboration extremely difficult. Most importantly, the challenge of raising funds to produce films is extremely difficult for just about all African filmmakers, especially those in less developed markets.
Traditional means of raising funds have proven to be unsuccessful at scale – meaning that although there are sporadic and anecdotal successes, no model has yet to truly transform the industry across Africa, combining into one system a way to fund, distribute and then further monetise filmed content.
Traditional models of funding are failing in that although they may provide support on the funding side, there is no link or seamless thread through to the distribution and promotion of the film. Whilst in countries like South Africa there are bodies like the National Film and Video Foundation, and other funding entities, the process is gruelling and funds are extremely limited. Most other African countries don’t even have such funding entities and very few have tax incentives for investors within the sector.
It is also virtually impossible for filmmakers to access commercial loans as the banking sector views the industry as high-risk with little chance of return, which, based on the current fragmented systems of distribution, is not an incorrect assessment.
The new model of crowdfunding for film production budgets has proven moderately successful on a small scale, and at least incorporates in its model elements of promotion and marketing, alerting potential markets that the film is being produced, it is still, on its own, not a viable model for the industry at scale across Africa.
What is needed is a model that bypasses the obstacles to the industry, which actually includes government departments, NGOs, banks, and even broadcasters. The African movie industry needs a way to connect producers, advertisers (funders) and consumers in a seamless loop.
A new digital community that is about to launch will do just that. Mahala.tv is a digital platform that will create a virtual community for filmmakers, designed for content producers as a simple way to distribute and monetise content, as well as providing opportunities for pitching, crowd-support, and funding for productions.
A seamless digital model that bypasses both broadcasters and cinema chains makes perfect sense on a continent that is seeing exponential increases in mobile phone and device penetration, and broadband access.
Mahala.tv will be an enabler for content producers as well as the many new VOD platforms appearing on the continent. The platform is basically a back-end tool that will enable content producers as well as aggregators and distributors to easily distribute and monetise their existing platforms, be it websites or social media pages.
Unlike existing models such as YouTube and others, mahala.tv enables content producers to share their content via any digital platform (no player required), and to self-monetise content through a variety of subscription and advertising models.
The platform therefore enables content producers to create and own their own communities, and to share content on any social media platforms or their own websites or even via bespoke white-labelled apps.
The platform creates opportunities for content producers and aggregators to advertise within videos, to set up subscription or pay-per-view models, and provides the most advanced and effective way to secure product placement. Viewers can instantly buy any product seen in a video with a simple process supported by a free and secure digital exchange.
This digital exchange also enables real-time payments to producers for content downloads, streams or related purchases from anywhere in the world.
With all this functionality, content producers can instantly create their own Facebook shops and add e-commerce elements to their websites. All content views and downloads, along with payments, can be tracked in real time.
Members of the community can also pitch projects to receive funding via the revenue pool created from a percentage of advertising, or via crowdfunding platforms from within the group. The cooperative banking model that underpins the system creates opportunities for filmmakers to secure loans and gather crowdfunding from within the digital community.
This seamless functionality creates a cooperative community where the processes of funding, distributing, promoting and monetising video content are available to any and all producers across Africa in one digital solution.
Once launched, the platform will be open to all content producers who will then be able to easily break down barriers in terms of distribution, advertising, payment, and even bandwidth and data costs.
One of the major challenges to the digital consumption of content across Africa is the cost of data and bandwidth. Whilst the desire for the product is there, and with smartphones and devices more and more becoming the viewing mechanisms of choice, it is only these prohibitive costs that are preventing the market from exploding.
In order to systematically address this issue, mahala.tv is already in discussions with key mobile network operators across Africa to ensure that viewer’s data consumption costs will be zero-rated across the platforms. Data costs would be fully subsidised by the advertising revenue raised from the platform – meaning more people can watch more content more often.
This win-win solution, based on mahala.tv’s advanced advertising and cooperative banking model, will see consumers able to watch content at little or no cost and producers able to secure revenue and produce even more content.
By addressing this fundamental challenge on the ‘demand’ side of the digital distribution equation, the platform will be a game-changer for the industry, enabling the increase of consumption and creation in an upward and exponential spiral.
The CEO of mahala.tv is well known and respected South African director and producer Gerard Mostert, who, in the next few months will be taking the platform to various events to engage directly with filmmakers and content producers.
Mahala.tv is the sponsor of the inaugural SOKO FILAM Film and TV Content Market taking place at the Zanzibar International Film Festival from 12 to 14 July. Here, the mahala.tv team will be meeting with producers, distributors, and digital start-ups, finding further creative ways to assist filmmakers in getting their content distributed across Africa through a secure and sustainable platform.
Mahala.tv is also sponsoring the Pitching Competition and Screening Lounge at DISCOP Johannesburg 2017, taking place from 25 to 27 October. This year the pitching competition will be based on various categories within the shorts format – enabling a focus on digital distribution.
Mostert has this to say of these partnerships: “To celebrate the launch of mahala.tv, and to start sharing the innovation with producers, we are proud to sponsor the first SOKO FILAM content market at the Zanzibar International Film Festival. We see this market as an opportunity to meet one-on-one with producers, aggregators, and other industry players from East Africa. Mahala.tv has also partnered with DISCOP Johannesburg to put out a call for short format content that will be showcased at the three-day industry gathering. Mahala.tv is especially excited to be hosting the pitching competition and will be offering funding support to winners, as well as welcoming all independents to become part of a new global community of producers that will enable them to create, share, and monetise content.”
Mahala.tv’s presence at DISCOP will be significant; in addition to the competition that is open to producers from across Africa to pitch their short content ideas from documentaries to animation, short content producers are also invited to submit their content for screening at the mahala.tv Screening Lounge that will be hosted within the main exhibition area.
Selected producers whose content and pitches are accepted will be provided with free accreditation to DISCOP Johannesburg where they can enjoy all the networking and business opportunities afforded by Africa’s largest content market.
The time is right for a solution like mahala.tv to revolutionise the emerging film industry in Africa. With literally millions of stories waiting to be told, and tens of millions of potential consumers, the power to transform the industry into one that is both profitable and culturally relevant will now be in the hands of the content producers themselves. And it’s about time.
The platform will be fully operational in October 2017.