“There are so many African stories that are yet to be told. Let’s take these stories to the world now.”
Before 2016, I had never watched a Nollywood production in a movie house, in fact, I won’t be caught dead seeing a Nigerian movie on a normal day, much less at the cinema. But when The Wedding Party was showing at one of the cinemas not far from my then-place of work, I went with a work colleague to see what the hype all around it was about.
It was quite impressive. I had never expected a Nigerian movie to evoke that much creativity, humour, and satire, all intelligently woven together. It was not a masterpiece but it did entertain me.
However, The Wedding Party was not the first movie by EbonyLife Films, a subsidiary of EbonyLife TV. Prior to it was Fifty, which was released in 2015 and garnered a return on investment of N400 million after a four-month cinema run, making it the highest grossing movie at the time. The Wedding Party made EbonyLife TV an estimate of N450 million at the box office alone. In December 2017, The Wedding Party 2 premiered in Nigeria, brought crowds to the cinemas, broke a litany of records, and made N465 million less than two months after its cinematic release.
It’s not every day you see a Nigerian company crushing it with every product they release. EbonyLife TV has made almost two billion Naira from three movies in the space of two years.
What is EbonyLife TV?
EbonyLife TV was founded by Mosunmola Abudu, fondly known as Mo Abudu, in 2006 and began broadcasting to a pan-African audience on July 1, 2013. It is Africa’s first global black entertainment network. EbonyLife TV has a license agreement with Multichoice (DSTV) Africa and has its programmes distributed on DSTV Channel 165, broadcasted to 49 African countries.
Since inception, EbonyLife has created and produced over 4,000 hours of original and premium pan-African content. It is inarguably ranked as one of the most watched channels by its target demographic comprising of mostly the youth and women. The programmes can be watched online, on DSTV, on any of their Android, iOS, Amazon apps and also on Roku Channel.
ELTV’s Afrocentric content is however not only constrained to African audiences. According to their official website, EbonyLife also provides viewings to those looking to be entertained in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East as they continue to secure distribution deals across the world.
Many of ELTV’s shows and programmes such Fifty – the series (a spin-off of the 2015 movie), Sons of Caliphate, On the Real, The Governor and others have been dished out to much critical acclaim.
In the words of Forbes Magazine: “EbonyLife TV is established and positioned as Africa’s first Global Black Entertainment Network, engaging like never before, and talking to especially the youths of Africa, the custodians of the present and of the future.”
EbonyLife TV has a mission to promote a positive image of Africa to the rest of the world. As Mo said to an Associated Press reporter in an interview, “Not every African woman has a pile of wood on her head and a baby strapped to her back!” and she is absolutely right! There is so much more to Africa than what the western media has painted and that is what ELTV is fixing.
How did EbonyLife TV kick-off?
Born in the UK to Nigerian parents, Mo Abudu returned to Nigeria in 1993 after gaining a master’s degree in HR Management and commencing her career in recruitment consultancy in the UK.
As a Human Resources Professional in Lagos, Mo Abudu headed the Human Resources and Training Unit of Esso Exploration & Production Nigeria Limited (now ExxonMobil) from 1993 to 2000.
After leaving ExxonMobil, she established Vic Lawrence and Associates Limited (VLA), a specialist human resources development company and the Protea Hotel Oakwood Park – both successful enterprises. She credits this to the invaluable experience she gained at ExxonMobil which provided an understanding of the corporate structure and business discipline.
Speaking of her path to television and media in an interview, she explains, “I would say that the dream was birthed when in 2006, after a successful career working as an HR executive at ExxonMobil, I decided I wanted to have my own Talk Show. I had no TV or media experience whatsoever, but it was the adventurous soul in me that kept me going. It was also a dream that had been deeply rooted, waiting to come out of confinement because media has always been my passion. Who was instrumental? Absolutely everyone, friends, family and associates who stood by me and supported me, those who I would call at 12 am because I had just had a striking realization.”
Mo had always had a passion to genuinely tell the stories from Africa to the rest of the world. During an interview with Forbes, she said that while in the UK, people would ask her the most mundane questions about Africa such as if Africans lived in trees and holes and if they danced around fires. This almost drove her mad and fuelled a burning desire to accurately narrate about Africa on a major platform.
However, the beginning of EbonyLife TV cannot be discussed without talking about its flagship show, Moments with Mo, which began in 2006. Produced and hosted by Mo Abudu, Moments with Mo was singlehandedly responsible for catapulting Mo to fame as a TV personality when it reached mostly audiences on Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Africa Independent Television.
Moments with Mo is the first syndicated daily talk show on African regional television. Mo, who is the Chief host and Executive Producer, says of the show, “it highlights the life and accomplishments of a usually well known, but sometimes an undiscovered African individual who by his or her own tenacity and determination has accomplished something, overcome something or been a catalyst for something that makes her or him a role model to others.”
Many important personalities have graced the show, from Nobel Laureates like Professor Wole Soyinka to then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. By October 2009, over 200 episodes of Moments with Mo had been aired, cutting across different topics and issues. Mo Abudu quickly earned repute as “Africa’s Oprah” or “Nigerian Winfrey”.
Ebony Life opened its first studio at the Tinapa Resort, Calabar in 2013. Toward its 3rd anniversary in March 2016, it had opened another studio at Nigeria’s commercial and entertainment capital at Town Planning Way, Illupeju, Lagos.
Like many successful Nigerian entrepreneurs, Mo hugely credits the fortune of EbonyLife to God. She said to Genevieve Magazine in an interview, “And realizing I wanted to do this, I have to say this came to me like most of my ideas, deep in the middle of the night. I hear a voice that I know is my God Almighty directing my every step. And it’s up to all of us to listen. You start to see the signs when you start to see things falling into place.”
The Possible Future of EbonyLife TV
The wonderful potentials of this fast-growing company are still unknown to even the most imaginative of us all. It very much could be going toe to toe with global broadcasting networks in the next few years. We hope to see more record-shattering and highly creative productions (think the soon to be released The Royal Hibiscus Hotel) from the stable of EbonyLife Films, competing with counterparts from Hollywood, while effectively communicating to the rest of the world that ‘Africa is far greater than what you think’.
Like Mo, “We are looking to the future with faith, confidence and renewed vigour.”
Which company would you like us to tell of their beginnings next? Let’s know in the comments.