John Ugbe, Managing Director of Multichoice Nigeria recently spoke to a cross section of Journalists in Lagos about the pan-African entertainment companyâ€™s passion for growing African Cinema. YEMI ADEBOWALE was there
The maiden edition of the Africa Magic Viewersâ€™ Choice Awards was considerably successful. What should be expected from the second edition?
A lot of the success we recorded from the maiden edition of the Africa Magic Viewersâ€™ Choice Awards was due to a large extent to support from our viewers. There was a lot of enthusiasm and awareness before the awards as Africa voted for their favourite stars. We have also had a lot of support from our sponsor AMSTEL Malta, as well as from movie industry regulators.
This second edition has not been any different. Our viewers have once again championed our awareness drive. They have been instrumental in ensuring their favourite stars receive adequate votes from them. Celebrating the winners from last year has also added to the anticipation for this year. The awards have gotten so much bigger and the range of participation has increased. We have almost 70 of the more than 100 nominees coming from Nigeria. It is certainly a great opportunity for us to channel the appropriate visibility for Nollywood. Altogether, our hopes for our African movie stars are that their art gain the sort of recognition that they so rightly deserve.
Why is MultiChoice the chief sponsor of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards?
MultiChoice is the chief sponsor of the AMVCA for the simple fact that we are passionate about promoting original African content and programming across both DStv and GOtv. This is done through the MNET and AfricaMagic channels. The goal is to showcase the best African content across the continent. Quite notably, the AfricaMagic channels have grown to eight channels, offering programmes that appeal to a variety of ethnic groups across Nigeria. Although the programmes are presented in different languages, they have been subtitled in English and this makes them accessible to a wider variety of audiences across Africa.
With Nigerians dominating the nominations and the awards holding in Nigeria for the second consecutive year, are you not bothered that the event could be tagged a Nigerian awards ceremony?
It is true that Nigerians have dominated the nominations for the second consecutive year. We however also have a lot of participation from other countries, but not just as many as we do in Nigeria. This can be attributed to Nigeria having been involved in the movie production industry for far longer than any other country in Africa, resulting in the coined word, â€˜Nollywoodâ€™. The vibrancy of Nollywood has contributed to the number of players we have for Nigeria. This reality should not however deter participation from other African countries; in fact, it is our wish that the Nigeria situation serves as encouragement to emerging movie industries across Africa. We are committed to promoting African content and hope that with increased participation, AMVCA grows to attain the stature of the Oscars across Africa.
How do awards like the AMVCAâ€™s grow the movie Industry both in Nigeria and Africa?
AMVCA is a platform for recognizing African talent. We are at the cusp of breaking new ground with AMVCA. We believe that by supporting this initiative, we are contributing to improving the socio-economic landscape of the countries that are growing their movie industries. As with the United States Oscars, the value of an actor or actress increases by leaps and bounds upon even simply receiving an Oscar nomination. We believe it is about positioning. When our African stars are strategically positioned, they also gain international recognition, become more versatile, command a higher premium and their careers in direct correlation, gain more traction. For us, AMVCA is an instrument of growth for our African stars. We aim to place them on the international map.
Beyond awards like this one, in which other ways does MultiChoice impact on the creative industry in Africa and across the continent?
Last year, MultiChoice Nigeria celebrated 20 years of operations. It has been two decades of investing in digital entertainment technology across Nigeria, and through a multi-channel strategy. We pioneered creative digital entertainment in Africa and we take this role very seriously. Being at the forefront of innovative entertainment also means proactively anticipating the needs of our viewers. Very soon, we will launch Box Office as a feature on our Explora decoder. With Box Office, you can rent a movie with just a few clicks on your remote control, right in your living room. It is like operating your own personal movie theatre. Aside from the convenience this brings to our viewers, they can legally view new, never before seen movies through Box Office. There will also be a Nollywood window in addition to an international one on Box Office. The variety this brings ensures there is something for everyone.
Ultimately, we hope to arrest piracy through Box Office. We hope that when viewers can access new movies legally on their televisions, they will reduce the pirated movies being peddled on the streets.
Beyond swelling the ranks of awards for movie productions and professionals, what would you say is the essence of AMVCA?
The very essence of most awards is to recognize and reward talent. We share the same objective for AMVCA at MultiChoice. Through AMVCA, we hope to promote creativity and versatility. It has often been said that competition is a good driver for improvement. So, yes AMVCA might ultimately lead to improved movie production standards across Africa. With higher stakes, comes the need to do better and continuously improve on previous performance. We aim to rank our African stars alongside international stars.