Buni TV: a new VoD platform for African independent producers

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African independent producers have three major challenges: getting known globally, finding the right distribution network and getting some money back.

Buni TV, an innovative web platform dedicated to African producers and film makers was launched a few weeks back to promote African audiovisual content. Sylvain Beletre, Balancing Act tested the website, interviewed Marie Lora-Mungai, Buni Media's CEO, and highlights Buni TV’s main objectives and benefits.
 
Buni TV joins a list of relatively new, innovative platforms announced in previous Balancing Act ‘Broadcast, Film and Convergence’ issues showing that we’ve reached a promising new era for the African film and TV industry.
 
Announced on April 18, 2012, Buni TV (on the web, m.buni.tv on mobile), whose tagline is  ‘Watch Africa rise’, is a web and mobile distribution platform that aims to become the premier destination for top-quality, independent pan-African video. It showcases a selection of innovative and visually arresting content being currently produced in or about Africa and distributes it to new audiences on the continent and abroad. As such Buni TV intends to improve the African media landscape.
 
Content-wise, Buni TV’s team focuses on modern content in a variety of genres, such as the latest film festival darlings, music videos and funny animations. Buni TV makes it easy for viewers to discover some of the most surprising, thought-provoking and enjoyable video content that only insiders know about.

The movies – such as A Screaming Man, documentaries – such as ‘Bikelordz’ and The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975’, television series like The XYZ Show, animations – such as the not to be missed ‘Tinga Tinga Tales’ and ‘Zarafa’ - and music videos including Mokobe's new album "Africa Forever" showcased on Buni TV are carefully hand-picked by the site’s editors. The Buni TV online and mobile platforms allow to sort content according to these genres. It also dedicates special sections for newly added content, popular content and recommended content. Audiovisual productions available on the site are a mix of trailers and full documents. A search engine enables further detailed requests.
 
The site is very easy to navigate and viewers will enjoy the high quality of productions. Several videos are imported from popular public video websites such as You Tube.
 
Buni TV also enables advertisers to associate brands with targeted, highly engaged audiences. For content owners selected by Buni TV, the new platform is committed to spreading the word further about their content.
 
Sylvain Beletre, senior analyst at audiovisual consultancy ‘Balancing Act’ interviewed Marie Lora-Mungai, Buni Media’s CEO:
 
Q. What prompted the launch of Buni TV?
 
A. Buni TV is a product of Buni Media, a multi-media company based in Nairobi and in Los Angeles, California. We produce The XYZ Show, a very popular Kenyan satirical program which is about to start its 6th season and reaches more than 8 million viewers a month on its various platforms. One of the main challenges we’ve had in our journey to produce The XYZ Show has been to distribute it. Although we have been pretty good at it so far, we are acutely aware that most talented filmmakers on the continent right now don’t have the opportunity to show their work.  And as far as African audiences are concerned, more often than not they don’t know where to find quality content or how to access it.
 
Buni TV proposes to bridge that gap by becoming the premier destination for innovative, top-quality content made in or about Africa.
 
Q. Do you plan on setting up paid VoD on your platform for full feature films?

 
A. For the moment, streaming videos on Buni TV is completely free and ad-supported, both on the web and on mobile. Our focus right now is on helping the pan-African audience discover the platform and on growing both our traffic and our catalog of original content. Ultimately, we plan to develop a subscription option to give viewers access to premium content such as full-length feature films. On mobile, we are looking to monetize this premium content through micro-payments, which have been pioneered by the music industry in Kenya.
 
Q. How many producers do you support so far?
 
A. Less than 3 weeks after the launch, we have signed with a dozen content providers, who are bringing about 80 original videos to the platform. In addition to licensing original content, Buni TV also acts as a curator, embedding film trailers, music videos and other content that already exists online on Youtube or Vimeo. In total, we currently have about 230 videos on the platform. So far Buni TV has registered 35,000 page views and more 670 hours of video watched.
 
Q. What has been the reception so far?

 
A. The response has been fantastic so far. The press has shown a lot of interest, as have potential business partners and, perhaps even more importantly, filmmakers. We’re already receiving spontaneous submissions. The feedback from the audience has been very enthusiastic as well. The Legend of Ngong Hills, Kenyan animator Kwame Nyong’o’s beautiful short film that just won an African Movie Academy Awards for Best Animation, is our most watched video. More than 2,700 people spent a combined 100 hours streaming it. Also, we are very proud to say that not a single technical problem has been reported so far. In fact, people are excited to tell us that Buni TV really does work on their phones! A seamless user experience was really crucial for us.
 
Q. Where do you see Buni TV in the years to come?
 
A. Our objective right now is to drive traffic to the platform. Over the course of the coming year we’ll be looking to dramatically increase our content offering with more modern, innovative African videos. We’ll be reaching out to established and up-and-coming filmmakers as well as to African film festivals worldwide. We believe audiences will be amazed by the quality of the content that is being produced in or about the continent. In terms of numbers, our production The XYZ Show already attracts about 1 million hits a month when it is in season, so we are very hopeful and ambitious about Buni TV’s potential.
 
Buni’s team welcomes producers’ submissions of full-length content for licensing purposes. Buni TV shares all its advertising revenue with content owners such as producers and filmmakers on a 50/50 basis.
 
Buni TV is sponsored by the Ford Foundation and Africa In Motion film festival. Its mobile ads are served by InMobi, a large independent global mobile advertising network.
 
Clearly positioned as a pan-African independent digital video distribution platform, Balancing Act believes that Buni TV’s launch is good news for the African audiovisual industry. It gives viewers access to the great content scattered across the web in one, easily searchable and user-friendly place, on the internet at www.buni.tv and on mobile at m.buni.tv. Buni TV also gives independent producers and local distributors a new platform to communicate about their work, and a direct access to a global audience of curious, engaged, culture-loving viewers.
 
For telecoms service providers, content owners, distributors and broadcasters willing to enter the multiplay and digital TV segments in Africa, Buni TV is certainly a potential partner to consider.

To see XYZ Show’s Gado talk about the latest season, a childrens’ puppet show pilot and Buni TV, click on the link here:

Related

New market report: VoD and Africa - A review of existing VoD services, drivers, challenges and opportunities (Dec. 2013)


 

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A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

Helen Kuun, Indigenous Film Distribution on the African films she wants to distribute

Jeremy Nathan, CEO, DV8 on its new crime series for MNet, Mshika-Shika and its feature film, Layla Fourie, directed by Pia Marias with Pandora Films

Deon Maas, Meerkat Productions on its latest film, Punk in Africa

Bertil van Vugt, Manager, Africa Interactive
on its series, Spark Africa

Cajetan Boy, film-maker and script-writer on the importance of script-writing in Kenya

Kennedy Odhiambo on the online Africa Slum Journal

Chiaka Orjiako, Editor, FilmBizAfrica on giving a face to African film

Kenyan film-maker Atieno Odenyo on her new documentary project Nusu Nusu

Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Communications, African Media Initiative on its new mobile news apps incubator