Tuesday, January 23, 2024

EbonyLife's Mo Abudu slams Amazon for axing African originals: 'shows a lack of respect for our continent'.

by Thinus Ferreira

The Nigerian producer and CEO of EbonyLife Group, Mo Abudu, is slamming Amazon Prime Video and Amazon MGM Studios saying it shows "a lack of respect for our continent" after Amazon's shock decision to cull its Nigerian and South African content teams  and to abruptly cancel further African original content creation.

Amazon Prime Video has retrenched multiple content executives and staff it lured to join its video streaming service in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa as for Nigeria, based in London, after it rapidly ramped up plans over the past two years to create, produce and roll-out localised African Prime Video Originals.

Gone is Gideon Khobane who officially joined Amazon Prime Video Africa 7 months ago in July 2023 as director of Prime Video Africa. The fate of other executives who all jumped from MultiChoice to join Amazon Prime Video in Africa is still unclear.

Amazon is not willing to confirm whether Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu (head of Nigerian originals), Kaye Ann Williams (head of scripted series and movies for South African originals), and Candice Fangueiro (head of planning and programming for Africa) have also been let go, although insiders said that is the case.

Stephen Barber, head of PR for Amazon in the UK, in response to a media query, said Amazon can't provide "names of team members who have left the company".

Meanwhile shocked and angry producers in Nigeria and South Africa who have been developing and producing content are furious with Amazon Prime Video and Amazon MGM Studios, saying "promises were made and not kept".

A longtime South African producer said Amazon "damaged producers' trust and trust in the streamer".

"Nobody will trust them when they come and present plans again in future about wanting local content. People sat through presentations in South Africa and Nigeria where Amazon laid out their plans and promised to be different; to do things better and differently. Turns out – not."  

While Amazon Prime Video is drastically reigning in content spend in Africa and on African original content, insiders said that Netflix as part of a global realignment has also quietly started to reign in its content budget for Africa. In contrast, MultiChoice has however massively ramped up content spending for its new Showmax done in partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal's Peacock, which is rolling out from today in app stores as a new video streaming service.

For the relaunch of the new Showmax, MultiChoice has 21 Showmax Originals that will debut over the course of February to lure potential subscribers to the revamped streamer.

Meanwhile, Mo Abudu who has produced African content for Sony and Netflix over the past few years is slamming Amazon Prime Video for deserting Africa and reneging on promises to ramp up spending on African originals.

"In recent times, we have witnessed the unfortunate departure of several international organisations from Nigeria and Africa, some marked by press statements that have, regrettably, shown a lack of respect for our continent," Mo Abudu says.

"In the face of these challenges, it is imperative that we, as Nigerians and Africans, rise above and build our own infrastructure, creating and serving our markets with pride and resilience. I firmly believe in the potential within us, and in the face of challenges, see opportunities for growth and self-reliance."

She's also praising video streamers and global players who have decided to stay in Africa and continue to invest in Africa's film and TV industry.

"To the international organisations that recognise our worth, we extend our heartfelt appreciation. Your decision to stay, partner, and collaborate with us is a testament to the shared commitment to not only growing the continent today but also for the generations that will follow."

"Let us embrace the challenges, celebrate the opportunities, and collectively contribute to the thriving and resilient future of our beloved continent. With hope and determination, we move!"