See the first part here
In my previous article of the same title, I attempted a backgrounding of the many issues that have made it impossible for quality programming to be the order of the day on Nigerian television. It’s important we understand where we’re coming from concerning television programming in Nigeria and how we have found ourselves in the mess that we are in right now. But, enough of history. Now, let us crunch numbers, put appropriate figures to what an independent producer must go through to put anything on the airwaves in Nigeria and possibly begin to accept our fate and stop tearing out our hair when next another annoying spectacle is displayed on our local stations.
Where shall we start from? Okay, let us assume an independent producer wants to put a one-hour drama series on air. She gets a story line, gets the screenplay done, goes on location, and gets the shoot done and post-production as well, all for about N250,000 per episode. That comes to N3, 250,000 for a quarter (13 weeks). Please note that N250k per episode is way more than the average cost of what you see on television. To be able to spend N250k per episode in Nigeria, you must truly be one of the BIG independent producers. Now, shooting is done, editing done and we are ready for broadcast. So our hardworking independent producer approaches one of our television stations and asks for ways to get the series on air. She will be given a couple of options, ranging from: 1. Buy airtime and put your programme on air (their favourite). 2. Put the programme on air for free and we will split the money that comes from adverts with you; you take 50%, we take 50%. (She would have to really beg for this to happen). 3. Give us the series for free, who knows, it may or may not attract adverts but at least you have screened it and when you shoot future episodes and take them to agencies for adverts they won’t say they have never heard of it before… (Read: we are doing you a favour and we will kick you off air as soon as the next paying customer shows up, but for now, since we have nothing else to put on air…) There are many other possible scenarios and most of them are not better than what we have above.
If our independent producer decides to take option 1, here are the realities: If she approaches Silverbird Television, for example, she would be required to pay the following: From 6am – 4pm = N87,500; 4pm -7pm (Showtime) = N94,000; 7pm – 11pm =N300,000; (Primetime) 11pm – 6am = N37,000. And this is not all: she will also be expected to pay 100% surcharge, also known as dislocation fee. This, in English, means that she has to pay double so STV can kick out whatever programme that is already being broadcast on whatever time-belt she wants. If she chooses to go primetime, which is where she will get the largest audience, she must be willing to cough out N600,000 per episode, per quarter, which comes to N7.8M. This is for Lagos alone. Add that to the cost of production and you’ll have about N11m. Now, somehow, our industrious independent producer can actually come up with this money (a huge inheritance, her life’s savings or a wealthy and supportive spouse, perhaps…) and she goes ahead to pay, hoping that the success of the series would bring forth a storm of adverts. This is where a different reality will smack her in the face like a slap from a calloused hand.
I do not know how advertising agencies do business with radio and television stations elsewhere in the world, so I shall not be making global comparisons here. However, I have a strong feeling that you will travel very far before you encounter anything close to what obtains in Nigeria and I make bold to say that advertising agencies are a major part of the reason why there’ll be crap on Nigerian television for a long time. It may interest you to know, for instance, that for each sixty second advert worth about N8, 000 you hear on radio, the radio station will end up getting just about 55-60% of that figure. Volume discount (about 20%) and agency commission (also about 20%) will be deducted from source. I will say nothing of under-hand dealings that will get you the adverts in the first place, or what you may need to pay some brand managers or other ‘powerful’ people along the way. Yet, this is still not the worst that will happen to our independent producer. She actually will not get a dime from most agencies until at least 90 days after she has run the adverts on her series, sometimes it will be 180 days later. It’s called turnaround time. Some will never pay her. If she decides to sell outright and not go through advertising agencies, the only station that will probably buy her series is MNET, and guess at what price? Between $500-$750 per episode. That is less than half of what she spent in producing an episode; can she even dream of making a profit? $1000 is what MNET pays on the average for the films you see on African Magic.
Some comments on the first part of this article compared Tinsel and Jacob’s Crosswith Nigerian productions and I had a good laugh. I cannot confirm this, but Tinsel is produced for about $900 PER MINUTE ($22, 500 or N3, 375,000.00. PER EPISODE of 25 minutes). What I can authoritatively tell you is that the first three seasons of Jacob’s Cross were produced for about $1800 PER MINUTE. That means that, for a one hour drama series, it cost $81, 000 (You usually produce about 45mins for a 1hr drama series to leave room for adverts), that is N12,150,000.00 PER EPISODE. Remember our independent producer? Yeah, the one who spent N250,000,00 producing each episode of her drama series? The critical difference is that Tinsel and Jacob’s Cross are funded by MNET for Multi-Choice so they will not be buying airtime anywhere to broadcast; you and I pay for those programmes when we pay our monthly subscription. I guess we all can see how ludicrous comparisons between both realities will be.
We pay nothing for watching programmes on our local stations so maybe we should complain less and thank God they can actually broadcast anything at all. Between the irresponsibility of NTA and the NBC‘s refusal to ban the sale of airtime, thereby forcing stations to invest in programming, this is where we have found ourselves. We may have Nollywood, but our broadcast industry is in shambles. It is a shame indeed, especially when you remember that we actually had television long before even many European countries. Don’t get me wrong; I am not holding forth for the many charlatans who masquerade as producers and put programmes on television that make you wonder if they have fried eggs for brains. Personally, I’d love nothing more than to drag some of them through a market place naked, with ash on their pubes and children taunting them with music made with sticks and empty tins. Yes, I find some of them that despicable.
Beyond all that, however, what else should we expect with the kind of environment we have created? How do we truly expect creativity to flourish and engender development? Aren’t we really disillusioned? Let’s face it, with all that has been highlighted above – and this is by no means a full coverage of our sad reality – isn’t it rather preposterous of us to expect anything but crap on Nigerian television?
This article was originally written for Nigeria Entertainment Today