South Africa has a rich heritage and a thriving film industry, and internet entertainment service Netflix has recognised this and is investing in the country.
Other than providing access to global content, the plan for the country is two-fold – ensuring the availability of South African stories on screen and investing in South African talent and productions.
Netflix believes that great stories come from anywhere and holds the view that the more local the story the better.
It has expanded its team to include executives with experience in South Africa and the wider continent. Kenyan award-winning film producer Dorothy Ghettuba was appointed early last year to head up originals for Netflix in Africa.
Nigerian representative Ben Amadasun, a licensing and programming veteran with experience across African including South Africa, was appointed to head up licensing in Africa.
At the time of her appointment Ghettuba said: “It is indeed a wonderful time to be an African storyteller telling African stories. In the past, stories were told by non-South African storytellers and film makers with an outside point of view. We are telling local stories by local storytellers from the inside-out.”
Netflix has already made important investments in local stories, with Netflix Originals and the licensing of African content.
“When an original series is commissioned, opportunities are created for producers, writers, directors, set designers, caterers and much more. There’s a multiplier effect in the industry,” Ghettuba said.
Queen Sono, Blood & Water and Mama K’s Team 4 are three new African Netflix Original series that have important South African teams driving them.
All three shows will be available to Netflix members around the world.
Queen Sono is Netflix’s first script-to-screen series, a fully produced African Original. It stars local actress Pearl Thusi and a host of other local top-tier talent including Vuyo Dabula, Kate Liquorish, Chi Mhende and Enhle Mbali.
The production company bringing the series to life is Johannesburg-based Diprente.
Blood & Water, the second Netflix scripted series from South Africa will launch this year.
It is being produced by Cape Town-based production company Gambit Films. Heading the creative team and local film crew is the talented Nosipho Dumisa.
Netflix recently announced Mama K’s Team 4, its first animated original series, produced by Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation Studios and London-based children’s entertainment specialist company Cake Entertainment.
Shadow, the first acquired original was launched early last year. This thriller is a story told by South African storytellers.
Amadasun said licensing is another way of investing in stories and South African talent.
South African film Catching Feelings was licensed in May 2018 and became available on Netflix two months after its global debut.
The licensing team recently closed a deal to acquire drama series Agent, which will also air on SABC, and a number of classic South African film titles fromIndigenous Film Distribution, including Oscar-winning South African feature Tsotsi, as well as Kalushi, Liefling and other films.
Netflix continues to invest in other countries in Africa, and signed a key partnership deal that has brought popular Nollywood titles to the service.
Both Ghettuba and Amadasun believe that the potential for new originals and licensed content is immense.
Ghettuba said: “Investing in South Africa benefits local audiences, local talent, local production companies and local businesses. It also showcases South African heritage and culture through the authentic South African stories being told.”
Amadasun adds: “Africa’s time has arrived. Whether it is South Africa, Kenya or Nigeria, the world is ready for our stories.”
African consumers, South Africans in particular, are ready for more focused and relevant content delivered in a way that suits them. Netflix as a subscription video-on-demand service provides this solution. Members have control over what they watch and when they watch it.
South Africa has recently witnessed a concerted and strong pushback against the cost of data as the country’s youthful and vibrant population demands more affordable access to the internet.
Netflix is aware of this and a spokesperson for the company said Netflix had made its service as data-effective as possible so that members can choose from four data usage settings depending on their data access.
Netflix also has a tool that gives subscribers better control over their data usage when streaming on cellular networks.
“The download option available on the Netflix mobile app allows members to download a show while on a Wi-Fi connection and then watch it later when they are offline,” said the spokesperson.
To make the service as easy and as seamless as possible, Netflix entered into partnerships with Telkom and Vodacom.
“These partnerships are also part of our focused view on South Africa,” said the spokesperson.
Telkom and Vodacom contract subscribers are able to add their Netflix membership to their existing mobile or fixed line bills, making payment seamless.
Members can still choose to pay with a debit or credit card, and the Netflix gift card allows owners of the card to stream Netflix to the value of the card.
In essence, Netflix offers members choice and control over their methods of payment.
Netflix is the world’s leading internet entertainment service, with 158 million paid memberships in more than 190 countries enjoying series, documentaries and feature films across a wide variety of genres and languages.
Members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on any internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without adverts or commitments.