Afrinolly – Africa’s mobile entertainment app which enables users to watch African movies, trailers and short films produced in the African movie markets, most especially Nollywood, was featured at the Google I/O annual developers conference last week in San Francisco, California.
Making a presentation at the conference on “Developers Connecting The World Through Google Play” Product Manager, Google Play – Ellie Powers highlighted the growth of the Nollywood film industry, and the role technological innovation – such as the Afrinolly app – is playing in connecting film fans with filmmakers in a new way that would not have been possible but for mobile technology.
According to her, Nollywood is number two in terms of the number of films made in a year, just behind Bollywood and number three globally in terms of the revenue made in the film industry. She highlights the challenge of distributing films in Nigeria; shortage of movie theaters compared to Nigeria’s population; and the challenge of piracy in a film industry whose biggest form of distribution is via DVDs.
She traces the growth of the Afrinolly app from 2011, when Afrinolly won the Google Android Developers Challenge – Sub-Saharan Africa, in the Entertainment category, with a $25,000 cash prize, to 2015, as it now boasts of over 4 million downloads with Android as its fastest growing platform.
Ellie revealed that the set of features the Afrinolly app offered over the years has also increased. According to her "In addition to being able to watch trailers and other video contents, Afrinolly is now about to offer film makers a platform to make money so that they could make more films."
This is huge publicity for the proposed Afrinolly Marketplace.
Talking about the Afrinolly ShortFilm Competition, she noted that it was a brilliant initiative to drive short-form content creation across the continent of Africa – content that can be easily accessed and consumed via mobile devices. To watch her entire presentation, see below.
Here are the highlights:
With over 1000 movies per year and a low startup cost, Nollywood has quickly grown to be a big part of the Nigerian economy. Directors are now focusing on increasing the production value of their movies with new making higher-quality audio and video more accessible.
– 1000+ Movies / year
– $50–100k Average production cost
– 2nd Largest employer in Nigeria
– Nigeria is a country with 173 million people and less than 50 movie theatres.
So the movie-watching culture depends heavily on distribution of DVDs. And this can work well, with many DVDs sold on the streets of cities and towns throughout Nigeria.
However, as DVD-making technology has gotten cheaper, piracy has become a big problem, so it’s harder to make money even if you have big distribution. The makers of Afrinolly saw that piracy was a huge problem preventing filmmakers from making a living but they also saw a new trend and an opportunity.
Yes, it’s mobile phones!
Almost all adults in Nigeria have a mobile phone, and smartphones are growing quickly. Mobile data access is also growing, and many Nigerians use Wi-Fi connections at work, too.
So this means a new way for Nollywood movie-makers to distribute their films. And it’s also easier for Nollywood films to reach their global fan base as quickly as they reach people living in Nigeria. There’s a huge market for Nollywood films outside Africa – e.g., Brazil
– 173M people
– 50 Movie theatres
– 89% of the population have mobile phones
– 27% have smartphones
Android Developer Challenge
Afrinolly got started during the Android Developer Challenge in 2011. The founders saw Google data showing that many of the most popular search queries in Africa were for Nollywood movies. But at the time, there was no IMDB for African cinema, so they decided to create one. They built Afrinolly to make that information available. They won the grand prize prize, and invested the money in marketing the app.
Today, the Afrinolly team is your typical startup: They’ve grown from a handful of people to a team of 12, and they are all based in Lagos, Nigeria. This includes a technical team of 5 people who work on the Afrinolly app and other technical services.
Now their app has over 4 million downloads, and Android is their fastest-growing platform. This has been due to the massive growth of Android in Nigeria and Africa overall, and the features they offer have grown, too. In addition to news, you can watch the latest Nollywood trailers and other video contents.
And they’re about to take the next step with the Afrinolly Marketplace. We mentioned before the piracy problem and how they want to help people make money so that they can make more films. So they are going to let people buy full-length movies within the Afrinolly app. This is going to create a new revenue stream for filmmakers and people can either stream these movies or download them at work, maybe on a Wi-Fi connection, and then watch them at home offline.
Afrinolly Short Film Competition
So they had an app but wondered well: What if we imagine a world where most of the movie viewing happened on mobile phones; what would be the best sort of content format for that? And so they thought about short films.
And now a lot of young Nigerian directors are making short films; it’s a great way for are a great way to get started. But the problem is that, there wasn’t a well-established sort of framework in the customers mind on how to actually be able to make money on short films.
So Afrinolly started a short film competition, which now gives away $100K worth of prizes every year. In the first year, they got over 500 submissions from African filmmakers in 14 different countries.
And then the Ford Foundation actually gave them a grant to train and mentor young filmmakers who have been part of the Short Film Competition. And they ended up making a series of films designed to drive Social Change in West Africa, and these films are now distributed through the Afrinolly app.
This is a creative center in Lagos where filmmakers can go to hear talks, use computer editing equipment with high-bandwidth internet connections, and more, including meeting other filmmakers.
There is also physical studio space for filming TV shows, and music videos. And, of course, it’s where the Afrinolly team is based, too, inspired after seeing the YouTube space in London.
This summer, they’re going to teach a coding class for high school students at the Afrinolly space. In addition to coding, they’re going to teach filmmaking, visual effects, screenwriting, and cinematography. This will help build the next generation’s technical skills. And they hope that their students will help them create content that’s more appealing to the next generation of movie fans.
That is how Afrinolly is using mobile technology to be able to connect film fans to filmmakers in a new way that would have never been possible a few years ago.
~ Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima is an award-winning writer and Publisher/Editor of NOLLYWOOD MIRROR®, Nigerians Report Online and other publications and CEO of International Digital Post Network Limited and other companies.