AREWA24 targets Northern Nigeria’s 80 million consumers with original, local programming – planning private equity raise

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There are other Nigerian TV stations that can be received in Northern Nigeria. But there is probably only one that started there and is focused on winning a large audience with locally made entertainment content. Russell Southwood spoke to the channel’s President Jacob Arback.

The idea for AREWA24 goes back several years to a US Government programme run through a non-profit in San Francisco “to create TV capacity for underserved communities.” Former co-founder and President of The Africa Channel Jacob Arback got involved and as he told me:”I couldn’t recall a larger group of language speakers without TV or media (than those in Northern Nigeria)…My job was to bring in the commercial side in order to privatize it. We’re in the process of transition and we’’ll have our first private equity investment in the next 2-3 months.”

“We’ve had to achieve compelling milestones covering audiences, revenues and executive leadership. That takes a lot of time because it’s not an easy environment”. But the success of the channel has been that it has begun to provide a way of reaching the 80 million or so Northern Nigerian consumers in a region where other media (like radio) is largely  fragmented:”We are fortunate that the 80 million consumers in Northern Nigeria have the attention of the brands, especially FMCG.”

It has done its own surveys but there is not a lot of data out of Northern Nigeria on audiences there. But the channel’s audience has grown very rapidly and it is the most popular hausa channel in Kano:”We’re tracking demographically to our target audience of 18-49 year olds, they’re the strongest part of our audience. We also skew to the lower income end, Cs and Ds. We’re free to air so we’re very accessible.”

It wants to expand its coverage to Southern Nigeria for hausa speakers who live there and is currently in negotiations with two Pay TV platforms:”We’d love to reach Southern Nigeria. We think there’s about 1 million hausa speakers in Lagos alone. But we’ll always keep Free-To-Air output for those who can’t afford Pay TV.” It also distributes a block of programming through the Government network NTA, at present through 6 stations but that will rise to 17:”This helps us reach a wider audience.”

The channel has a studio based in Kano and a commercial office in Lagos and has plans to open in Kaduna in the next 12 months. It employs round 60 people:”It’s a tremendous young staff with writers, producers and so on.”

When he started at the station, there was not a lot of good programming in Hausa language:”We don’t do news and politics but focus on film, lifestyle and things like that. For example, we’ve got a cookery show and the first reality show about weddings. We’ve licensed programmes from people like Al Jazeera and Zuke to round out the programming. The goal is to trigger more local industry production and we’re training industry production houses to produce the standard that we need. We don’t want to be the only hausa language programme producer. Also we’re expanding our music formats to include unplugged music.”

“There’s a lot of film and music talent in the North: hip-hop, writing and films. The creative energy of young people there is phenomenal. The security situation of the last 4-5 years has masked that but it’s getting better.”

Its most recent announcement has been a partnership with the leading music label Chocolate City to debut a collaborative “Artist Showcase Series.”   The Artist Showcase is a new series of highly stylized vignettes featuring some of the most talented and popular artists from Northern Nigeria. Each of the short vignettes follows the musical journey of one of the Chocolate City artists from childhood to their current status, and shines a spotlight on the inspiration they’ve drawn from their home cultures and communities across the region.  The artists participating in this initial Chocolate City-AREWA24 Showcase include Ruby Gyang, Jesse Jagz, Loose Kaynon, DJ Lambo and Chopstix.

Chocolate City Group’s co-founder and CEO, Audu Maikori, says of the collaboration, “we are excited and proud to work with AREWA24 in highlighting the tremendous contributions that our Northern artists are making to the Nigerian and African music scene and look forward to Northern Nigerian audiences getting to know not only the music, but also the personal side of our artists.”

The Chocolate City Group and AREWA24 plan to expand their collaboration into new music programming formats designed to showcase Northern Nigerian artists and reflect pride in Nigerian arts and culture.  As part of the ongoing collaboration, each Chocolate City artists in the Showcase Series is also featured in an episode of AREWA24’s popular H Hip Hop, hosted by Nomiis Gee. The Chocolate City-AREWA24 Artist Showcase Series debuts on Friday, 26 August 2016, during the regularly scheduled episode of H Hip Hop at 9PM; and, along with the broadcasts on the AREWA24 television channel, the vignettes will also be featured on AREWA24’s YouTube channel (youtube.com/AREWA24channel), social media platforms and its newly launched mobile App, which is available on Google Play and I-Tunes.

 It has developed a significant online presence which enables it to project its coverage beyond Northern Nigeria (dated June 2016):

Its website: 4.5 million uniques
Facebook likes: 230,000
Mobile app: 77,000
Instragram: 20,000
You Tube:    15,000 subscribers
Twitter:        11,000

“We’ve brought our original content on to mobile through the operators. Mobile distribution will be very important.”


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