Thursday, 7th December 2023

Ogundoro… Two years of giving voice to millenials

Femi Ogundoro is the MD/CEO of Maxima Integrated Media Limited, owners of Views Channel, a youth oriented TV platform on Startimes. In this interview, he spoke on the journey so far


Femi Ogundoro is the MD/CEO of Maxima Integrated Media Limited, owners of Views Channel, a youth oriented TV platform on Startimes. In this interview, he spoke on the journey so far, as the TV platform marks it’s second anniversary.

This month makes it two years since you launched Views Channel on Startimes, how has the journey been so far?
WITHOUT sounding religious, I will just say thank God for how far we have come; there’s nothing we could have achieved without His grace, direction and wisdom in the past two years. I could remember in 2009 when I got the idea for Views Channel; I said I didn’t want it. I was in Abuja with a friend… I got into Lagos and it came up. My friend said to me, ‘this channel…” and I was like, ‘I don’t want the trouble.’ Then, I was producing a 30-minute show for TV, which we were syndicating. I know the challenges involved in doing that, how much more you running a 24-hour channel.

The, in 2010, it came up again, and I almost said, ‘you know what, please, let’s just be doing this one.’ Produce about 20 shows, but take it at your pace and move on. And here we are; we have done two years. I won’t say it is two years of just running, but two years of God truly showing that he is God. You know, a lot of people said different things before we started. ‘You want to start a TV platform? You have to be on a certain platform before it is viable.’ But I call tell you it’s a myth; we have been able to cross it out. Yes, on some levels, they are right. Maybe, in terms of having more reach, mileage and all, they are right. But viability, commercial viability or acceptance, you are not right about that. 

Another challenge was, how do you run a 24-hour platform and still try to maintain the quality of your output? Honestly, I can’t explain that as well, but it has been a journey. We didn’t even get any form of support until a month after. A month after, we had a major telco come onboard and said they were ready to grow with us. Thereafter, we started having all sorts of brands because TV business is all about content. To get content, it is about money. So, for you getting one, it is not a cheap venture. Getting the right people is money; it’s not cheap. Getting the right equipment is money; it’s not cheap. And that is what sets certain platforms apart from the others.

For us, in the past two years, it has been an experience. When we celebrated the first year anniversary, it was pretty much young. But between that time and now, I will say that we have won an award that we never solicited for, that we never pleaded. You know, people say they influence awards and whatever; no, we didn’t do that. Views Channel was awarded one of the Top Hundred Fastest Growing SMEs in Nigeria by BusinnesDay end of the year 2019. 

We have also had partnerships. We had partnership with DW; it focused on that thing most people felt was not going to work. Because the idea sounds funny, it doesn’t sound familiar.

What really sets Views Channel apart from other TV platform in Nigeria?
When you say you are running a TV platform in Nigeria, you are pretty much defining that platform based on genre of entertainment. It is either music or you are doing drama series, or you are doing news, or you are doing sports; it has to be that. But our thinking is slightly different. Over 60 per cent of our population is youths and millennials. Again, 77 per cent of the population of the African continent is millennials and Gen Z, and one way or the other; it looks like we are cutting those people out of it. That’s why social media has ‘blown’; YouTube is the destination for everyone right now because that is the only platform that is giving that demographic the opportunity to truly express themselves.

The traditional TV is failing; it is truly failing. So, what we set out to do was bridge the gap between traditional TV and digital. Are we there yet? No, we are not close to it, but we are on that journey. A year ago, we had that discussion that we were going to do a lot of live shows. Right now, on a weekly basis, we are having over 10 hours of live broadcast on the platform. We have a couple of shows; we don’t only want to be on TV, it is a simulcast. We do TV, we do Instagram, we do Facebook simultaneously with those programmes and it has been growing. They gave me the report for last month, and I saw that we had over 10 million impressions, organic 10 million; that’s a lot.

Another strategic partnership that we had within the past one-year is with XOD Global. These guys, they are a global media and entertainment company. Of course, they have been doing the business for years. There are two partners: Russel [Roy] and his partner in Canada. We have been on this for a while, and we have recently signed a contract with them; they are going to be distributing the feeds. So, they paid about 13 or 15 channels in Africa: Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, which will be on the VOD (video on demand) platform in Europe, in America, and the rest of the country. We have just signed a contract that Views Channels will be one of the channels that will be running there. We are not trying to stay only on StarTimes.

A year ago, we were just on StarTimes, but right now we are on track to be on the mobile phone, on SVOD (subscription video on demand), and VOD platforms. We have only received confirmation from Airtel TV as well. Airtel TV, according to their data, I think they have over 1.2 million persons using the platform at the moment. So, it is looking good; Views Channel will be going on Airtel TV as well. These are some of the strategic partnership that we have had, and we are going to be having moving forward.

How challenging was it for you to get brands on your platform, in terms of advertising?
In terms of support from brands, I think so far now, we should have had 27 or 28 brands that are backing this platform; either on a monthly basis or a quarterly basis. We are even getting sponsorship from brands such as Peak Milk; they are sponsoring something on this platform from tonight. Before now, we would syndicate across platforms to just beef up the entire thing. But right now, it is looking like some brands want it on our platform, in as much as we can have social media feed.

Look at the team as well; they have been working tirelessly in trying to make this dream a reality. A couple of things we want to do, we have not been able to do, but we are ready for them now; we want to support SMEs far better that we have ever done. There are lots of young people that cannot afford to pay terrestrial TVs or the big network stations. On this platform, we are going to be giving about 26 to 50 young lads, in the next six months, the opportunity to showcase their businesses. We are going to do so on a particular show that we are going to announce at some point; we will give them the same package that they cannot pay for. Their businesses have not reached that level yet, but we would help them package it, give them advert and all that, to push their business to the next level. These are plans that we have moving forward, but it’s been exciting, it has been a lot of work and sleepless nights.

We are very grateful because people said to us, ‘when you start a platform like this, for two years, just keep doing it because nobody would even allow you to put their brand name on it let alone paying you.’ Today, we have a lot of them paying us and we are very grateful to the brands that have participated. From MTN to Airtel, GSK, Nestle, Unilever and other brands that have been supporting this platform, we appreciate you. 

In terms of content, what would you say you did differently to garner these support?
For us, I think the team; it’s about strategy, which I am not allowed to share openly. But another thing is, it is not about what we want, it is about what the consumers are looking for. We are not there yet, we are not close, but once some brand see that you are on track, they join; they support you. A couple of channels on the StarTimes platform, they are pretty much not following the broadcast code. You can imagine downloading movies and showing it on a TV station without licensing; without getting the right to that content. It gives them undue advantage, but we don’t look at that. But our clients are aware that we will never do that; we would rather repeat. Anything that you see is not originally Views Channel is paid for; there’s a process behind it. It is either there is a partnership there or they are paying us for it, or we are paying them for it. And we can back it up with facts, with documents, with contract. Without that, you won’t find it on our platform.

Another thing for clients coming onboard is trying to solve issues. Look for the pinpoint of the clients and then help them. So, it is not about what we are selling, it is first about what the consumers are trying to reach or love to see. If you create value, value will come back to you. So, we are trying to see what we can do. The effect is really not there yet, but we hope with the team, that we can get better as we get ahead.

One unique thing about Views Channel is the fact that you give young people the opportunity to freely air their opinion. How much has that helped the platform in terms of acceptance?
I mean, you have just described a generation, the millennial generation. They are not interested in you forcing anything down their throats; they want to express themselves. It is one of the main features of that generation, and our generation is still not recognising that. I mean, these guys have the population; they have the following, they constitute, like I said earlier, over 60 per cent of our population. So, you can’t continue to force them to watch what they don’t want to watch. The kind of content that connect with them must resonant with their ‘self’ concept; must be something that they can relate with easily.

So, if you are not doing that, it will be a lot difficult. And those are things we are trying to beat. Another challenge is, they want their content online, real-time. That’s why things trend, but Nigerians are not giving to them. From your Facebook to Twitter, they are giving it to the generation. ‘I want to talk now and not wait till next week for somebody to respond. I want to talk now and somebody is responding to me immediately.’ As a young person, I don’t want to go in-depth comparing the generation X with your generation Y or Z. But if you look at it, it is a trust issue. It is a generation with a lot of rebellion. It is a generation that feels, ‘you cannot enslave me.’ It is a generation that doesn’t trust anything, either politically or in terms of social.

These guys don’t want to miss out in life; they want to be actively involved in it, and that’s why it is a lot difficult. They don’t trust anybody. They are a selfish generation; they are not about you, either as an employer or whatever. We need to understand that. It is where they are coming from, so, try to speak their language. Those kinds of contents, you know, when you talk about sex very openly, are the things we are having on the platform. You switch on the TV sets right now and you see that a bulk of the TV stations that are known, the average person speaking on that platform is probably 45 or 50. Whenever there is any matter arising, the guys speaking about it are not young people. Are you trying to tell us that we are stupid? And when these older people are speaking, they are not making any sense. So, there are too many reasons why these guys just feel, ‘we want it our way.’ You can only pitch your tent with them and gradually show them that some of the things that they want to do might be wrong, but you can’t force them; that’s the truth.

For us, the kind of content that we put on the platform is driven by data that we see online. Like right now, Millennial report clearly states that a lot of young people watch more Nollywood contents. Probably, two or three years ago, it was more of music; music has dropped. It’s more of Nollywood content or movies generally. Look at Korean movies, three years ago, who would have sat down to watch it? But a lot of Nigerians go on social media to talk about it today; you have to keep up with the change.

Two years after, are their some innovations in the works?
Definitely, the platform will continue to innovate and evolve. Fortunately for us, Views Channel is one of the platforms of Maxima, so there is a holding company, which is Maxima Media Group, and within that group, you have different things. The facemask you are wearing, we produced it point-to-point; we have the facility to do that. We have an agency also; we work with multinationals; the group is funding the platform.

Recently, we have seen two companies walk up to us to say they want to invest – private equity companies. They want to look into our books, and on a daily basis they are seeing more with the discovery that it is getting very interesting. I would say that I am not sure that would be an issue. From some of the teams that we are looking at, I’m not sure it would be an issue. It is our preference to say that we are going with any of those people or we remain. It is called show business if you are a talent, but for us, it is media business. We need to manage it, and we have a formidable team that ensures that in terms of efficiency, cost wise and all, we are keeping it, and also pushing to do more.

It is also difficult because not a lot of young people are willing to do that. So, sometimes, we might lose some talents, and then we replace them; we are never tired of training new people. If you look at other platforms, people complain that they are losing talent, no. We have people that have been working for six years, five years, 10 years, but once you understand it, we can grow together. But if you don’t, it will be difficult. For us, with the way we are structured, we are not scared; we are excited that things will pan out well.