‘We’re coming to give people much-needed support’
Hakeem Condotti, the Chief Executive Officer of BLK Hut Limited, is a management professional with success across four sectors.
He holds a Master’s degree in International Business Economics from Westminster Business School, University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom (UK). He bagged a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Statistics from the University of Benin. He attended a variety of trainings across specialisations in the field of new Technologies and Management. He spoke to CHIJIOKE IREMEKA on the return of the Who Wants To Be A Millionaires TV Game Show and other issues.
What informed the decision to bring back Who Wants To Be A Millionaire TV game whow and why was it rested initially?
THIS is interesting because Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Game Show was a very popular show all through the time it was under a different production company. It was inconceivable at the time that it could be put to bed. At the time the programme was aired, the production company did such a great job with it, that Nigerians were blown away by the sheer mastery of the host and the entire show process.
However, for whatever reason it was, they stopped airing in 2017. I’m not privy to the exact reason for stopping the show, but their rights to it had expired. Over the years, Sony Pictures — the franchise owner — based in the United Kingdom (UK) and BLK HUT (pronounced Black Hut), have developed a longstanding relationship, which has led us to work on some projects together in the last two years, especially. This time around, we decided to take one of the assets that fit this market and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was the only one available.
So, we’d realised that over the years, the content quality that people respond to in Nigeria was falling, which basically pointed out two clear things that flooded our television content: It’s either music or a reality TV show. A lot of families are interested in either one of the two or both.
Now, the interesting thing about Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is that, this is not just a family show, but an entertaining one at that — a programme that enriches people based on their knowledge or brainpower; a programme that can promote positive value but at the same time, one that people like or brands can support. These are the factors that informed the decision to bring it back to Nigerians and give them something to watch again on TV and their mobile devices.
Are we looking at having a production better than what we had earlier or something different?
I don’t know whether ‘better’ is the right word to use when you say this. Like I said earlier, the producer did a good job of it. If you remember, last year marked the 20th anniversary of the show, but since the show was rested, everything has changed, with technology at the heart of it. We are proud to say that the set has improved; the set design has completely changed, so it’s going to be a spectacle, especially with our product quality.
What has also changed is the prize money, doubling what it was before. We are coming in at this time to give people the much-needed support they desire.
What really informed your decision to bring back Frank Edoho as host of the show?
We recently unveiled Frank Edoho as the host so he’s back. We did screen tests and auditions for a lot of people and at the end of the day, he was still the favoured one. We just couldn’t get someone that did it better than him. Moreso, the responses we got after announcing him as host, showed that we made the right decision.
Where do you plan to air it this time?
That is part of the reason we are back with a bang. It is going to be aired on three stations on DSTV — on three Africa Magic stations: Prime Time Sunday, Silverbird and NTA stations nationwide and a few other terrestrial platforms.
We are also putting it out on various digital platforms like Youtube, and our websites, to name a few, for anyone to catch up at any time. Now, we know the way people consume content is different from what it was before. People like watching television when they have the time. Then, it was different where we had to watch Television programming between 4 pm and midnight.
Today, people have the option of choosing what they want to watch when they want to. This is why we are introducing that catch-up feature into the project, available on our chosen digital platform through our website www.millionaire9ja.com.com.
Earlier, you commended the organisation involved in the production of the rested series, do you think your company could match or beat what we had before?
You may have to wait to see and assess what you have seen. We have done other projects, though they may not be of this magnitude. We recently launched a project with MTN and Sony Pictures, Sony One video app. As far as Television programming or content production is concerned, we were part of the World Cup in 2006 where we got the mobile right to provide content for viewers across Africa with OSMI.
We got the Pan-African right to showcase the World Cup on mobile to viewers across the continent. Since then, we have continued with that type of management. Simply put, we engage in a lot of content monetisation so, when the opportunity came to create our content and make BLK Hut a production house, we decided to do a lot of upgrades to meet the demands.
When the airing of WWTBAM begins, that is, by the time we are screening, you will be able to see the facilities firsthand. We are quite confident in what we are doing and we have invested a lot and the production quality is only going to get better. For us, what is more, important is the impact on societal value than just a money-making venture.
Let me inform you that the set design is built here mostly by Nigerians and for Nigeria using global designs and standards. When Sony Pictures saw the video of what we were doing, they were highly impressed that we achieved it locally and of course, I could understand where they were coming from. For us, it was not easy but it took the will to be able to achieve what they saw and approved.
What is the inspiration behind venturing into production, where is the passion coming from?
It has been a long time actually. Like I said, my interest was in content and how to monetise it on different platforms. For us, we have been able to get good sponsors on board to be able to take it from where it was. What we are doing with this production is to look at the younger ones to know where they meet in terms of platforms.
To the rest of Nigerians, what should we expect?
We are looking forward to presenting great quality content to Nigerians so that they see a qualitative project they can be a part of, make money on a weekly basis, at the same time and enjoy the game show as they have always done from the great host, Frank Edoho, who has matured over time. We want them to see the contribution of the sponsors, UP, who have made this a reality.
What should be the duration of the popular game show?
It is a year-long programme that will run for 52 weeks. We will have some special sessions such as the children’s special, during the 52 – week period; the Christmas session where we invite people from the public sector to participate; The WWTBAM charity edition where we host celebrities to be part of the show to raise funds. The duration of 52 weeks is also meant for the first season and the contract for the game show is renewable.
Manpower is key for a project of this magnitude, what are your plans to ensure that you get the right skills to deliver and sustain the audience going forward?
The focus for us at BLK HUT is not just to do a production that will only entertain Nigerians alone but also, train Nigerians and improve capacity. For the quality of what we wanted to achieve, a lot of people wanted us to outsource those things to foreign professionals; but we decided to do a hybrid to the extent that we got a Team lead that could train people for the next year. As we speak, we have capable hands, who can take over from them and train more Nigerians. Human capacity development is not an easy task but it is a worthwhile venture.
Nigerians always do well when they are well exposed to the right tools and training.
We all know how Nigerians have excelled in different parts of the world because of the kind of environment they find themselves in. It is easier said and done, but we are dedicated and committed to trying to train people so that we don’t lose the audience, but rather improve the quality of what we had before and localise it.
The franchise owner, Sony Picture, is working closely with us and since we do not compromise standards, we were happy with our final output. We could have gone for a lower quality set, given that we are just starting, but we decided to match them at where the world is at, which explains why they were impressed with the quality of what they saw.
For an average audience, what should they look forward to?
They should look forward to a chance of winning N20 million every week and N300, 000 for the Weekly Play. In simple terms, Nigerians should look forward to learning continuously. It is going to be entertaining because it is a show that thrives on suspense.
How do you get people to participate in the show?
Oh, that’s simple. To participate, the interested person should dial *569# or *7006*20# on all networks. Doing this would produce a menu, which you click on when you see studio play. As soon as this is done, you see the questions and answer them.
Then there is a draw. Once you are picked through this draw you get into WWTBAM.
Is there a limit to the number of times one can play the game?
There is no limit. You can play as much as you can until you get the opportunity to come to the studio or keep winning via the weekly play. The only thing is that once you appear on the hot seat, you can no longer be allowed to participate.
Is there also any age limit to it?
Save for the children’s special session, the game show is strictly for 18-year-olds and above. For us at BLK Hut, what we intend to do with WWTBAM is to entertain, educate and reward Nigerians. We equally want to prove that Nigerians can deliver standard and quality products when given the enabling environment.
Of course, Nigeria has a skill deficit but with the right guidance and leadership, we can make things happen. That is what is driving us with the production of WWTBAM.
What were the challenges you faced to bring the WWTBAM to the screen?
The challenge starts with translating dreams or visions into reality. It begins when people start to think about whether they can even achieve what they have set for themselves. This happens because a lot of hands have been burnt over the years. We saw a lot of that and we were not discouraged.
The biggest challenge for me is people believing what you said you could do. That is why we are happy with Unified Payments, which took the chance to be with us on this project. For us, the anticipated challenge is to see how we can manage regulatory agencies, which may want to overburden us with rules as we go along. We are glad, however, that we’ve been able to navigate that path and all parties are now pursuing a mutually beneficial interest.