‘We wanted to give young people a platform to express their passion’
In August 2018, Maxima Media Group launched its TV platform, Views Channel, on Startimes, with the aim of capturing the interest of young people on digital platforms and television in one space. In this interview with CHUKS NWANNE, the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the organisation Femi Ogundoro spoke on the experience so far and how the platform is changing TV programming for young people in Nigeria.
By next week, Views Channel will be celebrating its first anniversary, how has it been so far?
IT’S been exciting for us at Maxima Media Group because this is something we’ve been working on for years. With Views Channel, we wanted to give young people platform to express their passion, irrespective of their discipline and I’m happy we’ve been able to achieve that. What Views Channel is trying to do now is to bridge the gap between TV and digital such that young people can express themselves.
However, you can’t talk about Views Channel without talking of Views & Tunes; it’s like a journey in two phases. The very first part was Views & Tunes, which was borne out of the fact that, in the industry at a time, creative people didn’t know so much about the business side of the industry. Secondly, they didn’t have a mechanism with which they could receive feedback on anything. We didn’t have Internet like this that time, so, there was a gap.
With the coming of social media, people were gravitating towards digital. At that point, the relevance of the programme reduced significantly. Everything we do in Nigeria most times is from the producer’s point of view; we don’t always consider the audience. So, we flipped the script and went back to the target audience. We found that, thought social media was giving them opportunity to be heard, the audience wanted to express themselves; they still want to be on TV. Therefore, we pulled back and refocused the platform to be more about the expression and passion of the young people, the millennial. That’s how we rebranded it as Views Channel where young people between 16 and 35 can truly now focus. The idea is to let them know that education is important, but you need to check what you are passionate about. If you combine education with your passion, you will be the best that you can be in life; there will be no regret at old age. This is a platform for young people to express themselves and I’m happy they are taking advantage of it.
Looking back to when this was just an idea, to this point when you are currently showing on Startimes, how does that make you feel?
Let me tell you a story, about three and half years ago, I went to DStv office to speak to them about having a channel on their platform. If you look at my size, when someone sees me and I’m saying I want to have a channel on DStv, they will first look at me like, ‘who sent you?’ So, you could tell from their body language that they have doubts about my proposal. I made efforts to also speak to some top officials of the company, including someone I know very well, but they felt it was beyond me. So, I decided we should just go and do what we need to do.
What was your drive at that time?
One thing I know in life is that when you create value, people will gravitate towards you. It might not happen instantly, but once you create real value, with time, they will come towards you. So, even with DStv not accepting us at a time, we moved on. Even Startimes, I had presented to two of their MDs, but they didn’t see the picture I was trying to paint. First, they are Chinese; I’m explaining something about my market, but they didn’t understand it. However, the guys around them got it a bit, but they are not in charge. You know what I did? I got on a plane to South Africa for a five minutes meeting with their MD for Africa. So, for me, it’s about the spirit of possibility; nothing is impossible.
Was there a prior notice?
Well, I got an information on a Thursday night that he will be speaking somewhere in Sandton, South Africa the following Wednesday. My visa had expired, so, I applied the following day and they said it was going to take me two weeks. I looked for the Consular General’s number; I’m sure I called about 20, people before I got the number. I called him several times before he eventually picked. Before then, I had sent him a text that I needed to be in South Africa; he eventually did the visa in 24 hours. My visa was ready by Tuesday and I flew to South Africa. At the time the guy was speaking at the event, I was there at the Sandton Convention Centre. When he finished, I was waiting at the door; a lot of people were waiting for him. He was asking if I had an appointment but it told him I flew from Nigeria just to meet him, ‘I just need five minutes of your time.’ He then said, ‘young man, I’m listening to you.’
So, I explained very quickly; I pitched the whole idea to him. He said, ‘Okay, I think there’s something in there, but it depend on how you can do it.’ I told him everywhere thing has been sorted; I know how to make money from this. So, he gave me his card and asked me to send him e-mail. I did as he told me and copied one other person in South Africa; they eventually copied the MD in Nigeria. That was how the journey started. The day he visited Nigeria, he said he wanted to see me, so, I went to see him. We had a couple of meetings and they eventually they approved it.
Do did you come about the contents on your channel?
Our content is born out of the feedback from millennial. If you look at the young people and what they want, the terrestrial TV stations wasn’t giving them that anymore; they gravitated towards YouTube. They don’t want just music, though they love music; they wanted variety. If you look at the 2018 Millennial Report, you will realise that the top three things young people love the most are movies, music and food. You know, there are so many assumptions in this society; we assume because there’s no data or people don’t read. This is the latest report for 2018 and it shows you what young people love.
If you are looking at an economy of over 60 per cent bellow 35 and you are not speaking to them? Think about it, all the TV stations you have around, they are not addressing the youth. Today, if you talk about stations for young people, you go to music stations like Soundcity, Hip TV, MTV Base… those are the stations that come to mind. So, what we did was to create something that fits into the lifestyle of youths. We brought everything into one place; they don’t need to be changing from one channel to the other.
What’s the idea behind Maxima Media Group, what’s your scope as an organisation?
In simple terms, what we do is integrated media and marketing communications. It might be a group, but we are linked. If you check the companies within the group, from Maxima Production, which is the agency that tells stories through audiovisuals, to Maxima Integrated Media, which is the creative shop and media marketing services and Timeless Value Services, which creates branding for multinationals. Initially, we were just creating ideas and giving to people to produce, but we realized they were not getting things right. So, we had to move from just conceptualisation to implementing those ideas. Experiential was one of the key things I was doing from 2005; we got our big break in 2007. For experiential, you need a lot of money. At that time, we had three businesses; I was struggling because I couldn’t finance the three businesses at once. Unlike now that everybody wants to give you money, nobody wanted to give you money for anything; they banks would only collect money. So, I had to stop the experiential at the time and we focused more on TV and branding. Today, we’ve been able to grow each of these businesses to a point where we run Maxima Media Group.
How have you been able to sustain the business so far?
We run them as businesses one after the other, but I was ploughing back 100 per cent of everything. I’m coming from a background where many that started business in the 80s and 90s, a lot of them failed. I saw a lot of those businessmen that had branches around, but as soon as they were gone, the businesses died. So, for me, I had made up my mind that I was not going to run that kind of business. So, in entrepreneurship, you also need to separate business from who you are. From the beginning, I received an allowance from the business for a long time. Fortunately, I wasn’t married at that time. Even while I was paying eight to 10 staff, I was still squatting with a friend. It was until I got 15 staff that I rented an apartment; the business was okay before I started spending on my self and earning salary. It’s discipline, control and perseverance. Those days, after marketing during the day, I spelt in my office; I lived there. Because my staff would resume at 8am, it meant that I had to be up and have my bath by 6am, even if I slept by 3am. A number of my staff didn’t know I was living there because when we closed, we shut down, I would also step out of the office, then return by 9pm to sleep. I had this small matrass folded somewhere at the back; I would bring it out there and sleep. So, those were part of the things I did.
You described yourself as a serial entrepreneur?
Yes, I’m; I’m saying that with a deep sense of understanding. An entrepreneur is not someone that’s just starting a business; an entrepreneur is someone that sees a problem and then offers solution. When there’s a problem, a lot of people complain and talk but they do nothing about it. When people complain, an entrepreneur proffers solution to it. When people see a problem and run away from it, an entrepreneur runs towards it and fix it. I will say that describes who I am.