A24 Media launches Yebo VoD service focused on history, biography and African discovery – mobile deals in the offing

6 May 2020

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VoD may provide an ideal route for more niche content interests but the road is not always an easy one. Two weeks ago pan-African TV content producer A24 Media launched its Yebo platform focused on history, biography and African discovery. Russell Southwood spoke to Asif Sheikh, A24’s CEO about his ambitions for the platform.

According to Sheikh, A24 Media has been building up African content and its VoD platform is a pivot to a channel that can deliver audiences for its content:”The original idea was to do a TV channel when the DTT migration happened. But it was clear that youth were not watching terrestrial channels. It had to be a digital play. The timing might be perfect right now. It’s taken us two years to set it up and we’re very excited. We did a soft launch last year and two weeks ago we did the hard launch”.

The Yebo platform has three models for accessing content. Firstly, 80% of the content is free to access, which will be ad-supported in the longer-term. . Secondly, there are premium products where for example, you can watch an amazing documentary for US$1. Thirdly, if anyone is a creative they can access the footage for their own production use.

The Yebo app is on the Google Play Store and it will be doing an iOS app in the next few months to reach out to the diaspora. Any content downloaded off the app can be watched offline for 30 days.

It has wider, long-term ambitions for the platform:“We’re not taking third party content right now but we will do in phase 2. Also we’d like to expand what the platform can do so it becomes an e-commerce platform with things like fintech and selling African art”.

Current users are just under the 6,000 mark, with 70% from East Africa with also a good uptake from South Africa and Nigeria:”The name Yebo is familiar in South Africa so that helps”. Beyond these countries, there’s diaspora interest and from countries as far afield as India and Argentina.

The platform has a wide selection of content including African Heroes, some simple games, Animore (animal rights), Newsic Room and Upbeat (music), On the Road (destinations), The Scoop (interviews), Smart Agriculture and a range of programmes about Africans’ cancer stories.

“The main content interests so far are in history, biography and discovering Africa. Some of the users have quite random patterns of interest: one will watch a documentary and then look at the “snackables”. Some are just going to the audio versions. The content we have doesn’t exist anywhere in the world”.

“We’ve only put up 10% of our overall content. We’re uploading new content every other day. We’re watching the analytics closely over a six month period and see what the winners and the losers are. Once there’s a clear pattern, we’ll take off the losers. We need to keep the site fresh”.

It pivoted from working with broadcast because broadcasters never want to pay what the content is worth, according to Sheikh. So it is using VoD to get to a younger, more receptive audience directly:”The big question is how much we need to market to get to the audience we need?”

So what’s the breakeven point?:”Advertising agencies say that when you have between 5-20,000 users in one territory like East Africa then corporates will be willing to pay for ads. My internal target is to get to a more respectable number and then look at monetization. There’s no rush but once we’ve got the numbers we’ll get the ads”.

“We’re already talking to operators and the Covid-19 lockdown has encouraged it. MNOs seem to be really hungry for content. The big question for us is how much content do you give them and how much do you keep exclusive to Yebo? It’s a fine line. Luckily we have so much content that we can make sense of it. Vodacom and MTN are waiting for the contracts from ‘legal’. With everything shut down we’re all working from home so it takes longer”.