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‘DigiConverge will revolutionize way content is consumed in Nigeria’

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Celestine Achi


Celestine Achi is the founder of Digitalprwire, the pioneer online PR platform for global news distribution and reputation management in Nigeria with over 3000 publishing partners, and media outlets. He is also the founder of the first proprietary OnlineTv—KairoswebTV, which is now known as FlikonTv. In this interview with ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, he spoke on digital content creation in Nigeria, the importance of full broadband deployment, and the controversial NBC code, among other germane industry issues. Excerpts:   

Can you give a vivid concept of DigiConverge?
DigiConverge is a Digital Convergence Platform that provides fit-for-purpose services in e-Broadcasting, global content syndication, media intelligence and virtual business support. What we did recently was to launch three out of the six Platforms as a Service (PaaS) under DigiConverge. The first one is called Digiblastream, which happens to be a virtual studio and live streaming solution, taking into consideration what is currently happening globally, the lockdown, social distancing and what have you. So, what we are now saying is that look,  as a media person, as content producer and others you can now, right from the comfort of your home, start a talk show, within the virtual studio. You can start your video news, maybe you want to multicast news or air a particular news content that is video base, right from the Digiblastream, and you can do that.

  
Schools can use it as a virtual classroom; for training institutions, it can be used as a virtual learning platform, all from the same pool. Even though it has the component of virtual conferencing and meetings that is secondary to us, what is more important is how people can use it as a virtual studio, instead of spending so much using the physical studio that you see all over. So, basically, Digiblastream is a virtual studio, which we have introduced to actually help, not just Nigerian youths but Africans in terms of broadcasting of content virtually.
 
The second one is Digigbedu. You can call it your music syndication platform. We have partnered with 220 streaming platforms globally, including Amazon, Sportify, Deezer.  What it does basically is that if you are the owner of music content or if you are a marketer or a music label using Didigbedu, you can actually stream your track or album to these 220 platforms simultaneously and earn 100 per cent royalties.  
  
But what we are now doing differently is that it is not just about them earning that 100 per cent royalties, we are also backing them with our public relations tech tool to give them more visibility and to also ensure that using predictive analysis and data analysis, they are able, from the back end to see how much they are earning in real time and in which countries or which region their music is performing the best.
  
So that will further help them in knowing exactly the country they know they are doing best and they can do more. We also have a service, we call it a collaborative service where we bring musician from different countries entirely to collaborate with them
   
The third one is Flikontv. What we have done with the FlikonTV concept is that we have moved from just being an online TV to a provider of online TV solutions. Meaning that when a particular brand wants a TV station, we say a TV station because, the TV station we build allows whoever owns it to create as many channels as possible. While we have the TV channel package, for somebody who says, look, I just need only a channel not a station, we now provide that from our technology. But in terms of empowering Nigerian content owners, what we have now done with Flikontv is that we have signed a deal with Viva Entertainment Group, a publicly traded company in the U.S. and we are acting as a bridge between Nigeria’s Nollywood and America’s Hollywood. Under the Viva Flikontv Partnership, there are already movie producers in Hollywood, who are on standby to collaborate with their Nigerian counterparts on original African content that we recommend under that partnership. We also have the Flikontv channel that only accepts and streams original movies that have not been released on any other platform, be it Netflix, Irokotv or Youtube. The only place you can find it is on Flikontv, and what we have done is to make their content premium and ensure they earn what they deserve besides ensuring quality of pictures, sounds, originality of contents that retell the African story.
  
In terms of monetization, we have crafted two different models for content owners. Content owners get to earn 60 percent as their own share of revenue from the subscriptions and 70 percent revenue from all adverts that are placed on their contents. But beyond that, we have also placed collaboration opportunities as a key element for all our content partners in FlikonTV, especially for content owners who have original ideas or contents that speak to African values. We will match them with any Hollywood producer, who will not only fund it but collaborate with them to produce a global winning movie. So these are the solutions that we have launched, and that is why we call it a digital convergence platform because it is the convergence of three platforms at your service to actually meet the needs of not just Nigerians but Africans within the continent and in the Diaspora.

I know there are other persons in this line of business, what is the uniqueness of DigiConverge?
The uniqueness of DigiConverge is the premium it places on quality contents, on the content owners and on data analytics. Secondly is the uniqueness of the service. For instance, I said it has a video conferencing tool, which Zoom, GoogleMeet have, but that’s not our priority. The priority is how you can use it as a virtual studio. We cannot say those are virtual studios. But this one gives you the ability not just of a virtual studio but also a streaming part that allows you to stream live to multiple social media platforms and private servers at the same time with the benefit of an existing global audience and that is equally available on RokuTV, Amazon tv, Apple TV, LG TV, Blu Phones and now Samsung TV. The premium nature and the empowerment of content owners is one of its uniqueness.
    
Again, this is not a competition with the likes of Zoom as what we are offering is basically different. What we are selling to the public is a virtual studio. For instance, should there be traffic on Third Mainland bridge, we are saying that look, don’t worry about beating the traffic, you can start your own talk show from your car, you can start your news.

The Nigerian environment is very peculiar with many challenges. What do you see that may likely impact the growth of this new initiative?
I see Broadband. It is as simple as ABC. I think Nigeria started the project during the time of Dr. Omobola Johnson. A national Broadband plan was prepared, but nothing concrete came out of it. If the Nigerian government has been serious about the deployment of broadband infrastructure, we should not be where we are now.
 
By now, the whole country should have been wired. We should be seeing fibre optic cable connection all over the place because all these infrastructure we are pushing runs on efficient broadband services.
 
That is one challenge that I believe may impact on the fastness of the scale up of business in the country. However, what we have also done is to inject a unique cloud technology: fluidity, with Low bandwidth consumption suitable for all devices.  No downloads, no apps, invite anyone to watch or participate as a guests in your virtual studio or virtual classroom with a simple link

What is your advice to the government in this regard so that initiatives like yours can be sustained in this country?
The first thing is for the government to hands off trying to provide insight capacity for Nigerians. It can come up with a policy framework and leave it for the telecom sector to handle.
 
The telecom operators are the ones that have the expertise and resources to put all these things in place.   Another way the government can equally help them is in reducing Right of Way tariffs for the cables to be laid. This is because from city to city, states charge RoW, Federal Government, and Local Government also charge different fees. The prices have to be harmonised for there to be rapid development.

 
There must also be protection for these infrastructure. Government needs to step in to prevent cable cuts, especially during constructions. So many cables have been uprooted during constructions without adequate compensation to the owners.

Where a road is going to pass, the government should get involved and ensure the cables are re-fixed upon completion of the road.
In addition to that, the major challenge to the national broadband plan as at that time was the RoW. But with the present administration, the state governments are opening up and bringing the prices down.
 
There are two options I believe possible looking at the way forward. First, is through public, private partnership (PPP). The other aspect is for the government to ensure that in terms of protection of infrastructure, they are swift about it.
 
It is also key to have the right regulation. The telecoms sector is very sensitive, so the regulations must be tight and dynamic to accommodate more players.

Can we know the level of investment that is coming to this?
DigiConverge is wholly self-funded. We have a few partners coming together bringing their personal funds to make sure DigiConverge was developed and launched. However, more funding is definitely needed if we must scale up and offer more features for the benefit of Nigerians and the rest of the world. So simply put, millions of Naira has gone into making DigiConverge happen.

For emphasis, Digiblast means a virtual studio for electronic broadcasting. A virtual studio for talk shows, a virtual studio for electronic learning, and a virtual studio for event streaming whether for product launch, media launch, and the rest.

 
It may interest you to know that even the virtual launch of DigiConverge happened live on the DigiBlastream virtual studio.  It can host AGMs, it can host product launches. All you need to do is to set up your camera, capture the key things you want to capture and the rest is logging to the studio from there. It can be broadcast on any social media handle or website and to those who are supposed to watch they have the means to go there and click on the event.
  
For Digigbedu, it is a music content distribution platform. It distributes music across 220 streaming platforms including Amazon, Sportify, among others, and the owners of the contents get 100 per cent of their royalties, that is what we are targeting.

Local content is key in driving initiatives such as yours. How local are you?
I will break the local content into two. For instance in DigiConverge, we would have loved to adopt the use of .ng, now, but I think in terms of its infrastructure, we are still far away and we cannot afford to mix things up. So, I am looking at a situation whereby those handling infrastructure on servers locally will have to up their games.
 
The second aspect, in terms of local content has to do with the content per say on this channel. We are looking at collaboration, especially in terms of funding.
 
Our focus is to ensure that everything is local, African and Nigerian. More importantly, we are giving focus on contents that promote quality Nigerian culture and values and whatever Nigeria as a country has to offer. Don’t forget that a large number of our audiences are actually Nigerians and Africans in Diaspora. It will interest you to know that currently we have lots of demands even from the Latino region, for those who not even Africans are looking for just original content to view.

  
In addition to that, it might interest you to know that there are young producers with good story lines looking for exposure and platforms to expose their works. But you know how it is: if you are not that connected, you won’t go onto the big platforms. We are seeking out such people and with the revenue formula we have – 60 per cent for their contents and 70 per cent for advert that runs on their content, we are empowering them to do more in terms of skills and equipment upgrade.

We sent about 66 unreleased movies to our partners in the U.S for screening and only one was returned. That means these young boys know what they want as regards to quality. So, you can imagine when they now start making good money from those movies, definitely they are going to scale up the quality of the production. So producers and filmmakers are there looking for platforms to expose their work. We are seeking them out deliberately, we have a mode that brings them up deliberately, we get them onto our platform, they earn the raise that they need in order to produce more because African stories have not been told. There are a whole lot of good things that need to be told about Africa and this is the time to make it happen.

How is the new NBC code going to affect and promote DigiConverge, especially the area of exclusivity and some other things as mentioned in the code?
In the area of exclusivity, we are carefully following that code and there are conversations going on it. For us, when you talk about exclusivity, the first clause on exclusivity angle on the partnership is the business angle. Focusing on the code, we are engaging with our advisory board, who are looking at the code closely. It is very complex and it’s giving up so many discontents in the industry, because you can’t take away the premium nature of someone’s content. The major stakeholders in the industry are engaging the relevant government agencies on this. We will align with the outcome of these engagements at the end of the day.

 

 


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