Mo Abudu is an entrepreneur on a mission to make her native Nigeria a bigger player in global media.
The CEO of Lagos-based EbonyLife Media is tapping into wave of interest from streamers in content from outside the U.S. and Europe to generate a flurry of deals for her production banner, known for producing the detective drama series “Blood Sisters” for Netflix. On the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Abudu says she looking to help expand production infrastructure in her home country, as well as to give Africans in general a more prominent voice in the entertainment marketplace.
Adubu has watched the trajectory that South Korea has been on with its music, TV, film and pop culture catching fire well beyond the boundaries of Seoul and Busan. She sees a model there for Nigeria.
“My daughter has been watching Korean content for 10 years or longer,” Abudu says. “But look how that has taken the world by storm right now, some of us are just realizing that there’s Korean content out there, but they’ve been on this journey for the last 20 or 30 years. I believe that it’s a journey that Africa is on, and we’ve started the journey.”
EbonyLife was founded more than a decade ago as a linear TV channel, which was a groundbreaking move in and of itself, as Abudu explains. But after five years, Abudu realized EbonyLife would be better off focusing full-time on content creation rather than operating a pay TV linear service. The response to EbonyLife TV in its early days confirmed Abudu’s hunch that there’s a wellspring of untapped talent throughout Nigeria.
“It was a very young, very hip, very sexy channel,” Abudu says. “At that time, there was nothing that was speaking to this particular savvy, aspirational, what you can call now the TikTok audience. “A lot of our presenters hadn’t even done television before but they were just really savvy, really well spoken, beautiful-looking people who dressed well and looked well. And we just put them on screen.”
Abudu is well aware that the largest media giants around the world are looking at Africa as a growth engine in the coming years.
“As a business case, all the other markets are literally fully saturated. Where are you going to go? How many more subscribers are you going to get in England or London or France,” Abudu says. “You may get a few more. But the largest market is right now is on the [African] continent. There are a billion people there.”
The CEO who got her start in the corporate world in London also likes to remind people that Africa is not as far removed from Europe or North America as many Westerners think.
“It’s not like you’re going to outer space. The other day I was on a plane from New York to L.A. and it was five and a half hours. That’s how long it takes to get from London to Lagos,” she says.
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Google Play, SoundCloud and more.