Kenya to Market Films Online As Sector Reels From Lack of Exposure


The government will develop a content management web portal to market Kenyan films on a digital platform to raise international visibility. The portal, to be run by the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB), will showcase the sectors' products that players say have been hit by poor marketing and lack of awareness. According to Information PS Bitange Ndemo, this will save producers the costs of marketing and distribution.

"The Kenya Tourism Board through the content management portal will host all our local productions and make them accessible for preview and e-commerce," said Dr Ndemo during the release of a research to establish the economic contribution of film and TV industry in Kenya.

"Distribution and exhibition of films in Kenya is almost non-existent. The majority of the theatrical distribution industry in Kenya is predominantly located in Nairobi," the research reads in part.

The study, done by Strategic Public Relations and Research Limited says that majority of Kenyans prefer watching movies from their houses, vindicating the shifting of viewership trends to homes that has seen several theatres close.

According to the study released by the Kenya Film Commission, 85.1 per cent of the respondents watch movies in their houses, 18 per cent watch movies in theatres, 4.7 per cent watch movies in their local or estate movie halls and 2.8 per cent watch movies via mobile cinemas.

Rental shops remain the best source for movies with 48.9 per cent of the respondents saying they source their movies from rental shops, 31.8 per cent source from street vendors, 6.7 per cent get theirs from film theatres, 6.7 per cent from supermarkets while 3.5 per cent download movies from the internet.

The web portal will shift the source of information about local movies to the internet as film producers will be expected to present their work alongside short previews for the purposes of teasing the audience.

Analysts say the growth in take-up of 3G handsets, smartphones, iPads and other portable devices, the proliferation of high-speed fixed and mobile internet connectivity in the country will be the key drivers of the online marketing tool. The study reveals that the film industry contributed Sh1.8 billion directly to the economy in 2008.

Indirectly the sector is estimated to have generated Sh48billion from ripple effects that include proceeds from filming licences, visa application fees for foreign film makers, tourism, spending by film makers in local hotels, skills and labour supply, culture and merchandising. The Film Commission says the sector is currently generating over Sh3 billion annually.

The study cites high costs of production and the perception that Kenyan movies are inferior as some of the challenges stifling the sector's growth. "But it is difficult to tell the exact value of the industry since it's not mandatory to register a film or television production," said Peter Mutie, CEO of the Kenya Film Commission.

Bitange says research findings will help the ministry to lobby for a revolving fund to support the local producers."We have been missing figures to use to convince the government on the contribution of the film industry on the economy. With this study, we can now convince the relevant ministries abotu the need to set up a revolving film fund to promote the industry," said Dr Ndemo. "Banks will also begin to understand what is happening in the sector," he added.

The faster internet speeds have also been blamed for the sectors' woos having made it easier for traders to download movies and re-produce them in a matter of hours denying movie houses revenues a move that has seen several cinema halls in Kenya including Kenya Cinema, Odeon Cinema, Globe Cinema and Shan Cinema close shop.

South Africa's Nu Metro exited the local market last year and sold its assets to Nigeria's Silverbird after it failed to stem losses. The research recommends calls for a study to estimate the revenue lost as a result of piracy as part of the contribution of the film industry to the Kenyan economy.

The Copyright Board of Kenya launched an authentication device to be placed on all audiovisual material meant for sale to clamp down on the pirated movies. But the survey finds that Kenyans prefer to watch movies with local content over those with foreign content. In the survey 41.6 per cent of respondents said they would prefer to watch local productions while 35 per cent are slightly likely to watch a movie with local content over foreign content.