- With its recent contract signing with 12 local content creators, the company is betting on original content to drive future growth of the film and TV industry and vows to include women in the next run
After sending out calls for content producers to submit proposals for evaluation late last year, broadband wholesaler Botswana Fibre Networks (BoFinet) entered into a contract with 12 local content producers last Friday at Masa Square in Gaborone,
This is in preparation for the launch of the company’s first Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) service, which is a subscription-based streaming service that will host a bouquet of local and international titles. “This is our continuous effort as a company to support and develop our local film industry in partnership with content producers,” said Mabua Mabua, the CEO, in an interview.
“There were a number of issues our industry and the underlying one was lack of a platform where Batswana are represented and producers are able to showcase their productions. BoFinet then came up with the IPTV platform that will achieve this dream of representing Batswana.”
Different from terrestrial broadcasting, IPTV is a video online platform that broadcasts video signals online, allowing users to choose what they want to watch. In this way, BoFiNet is creating a platform similar to other IPTV services such as Showmax and Netflix where content is sold through licensed local service Internet providers. ”The beauty of the Internet platform is that it can be accessed by anybody, anywhere and you don’t even need to have a licence,” Mabua explained. “The quality that we are starting with is commendable and I think in the next 12 months it will be even better. Our bigger picture is to duplicate the same concept as elsewhere in the region.”
The company has partnered with 12 production houses, namely Torch Studios, Studio 24 Film, Molibi Otukile, Box Screen Pictures, Onalethata Mochine, Baboneng Film Productions, Motion Lab, Mellow Deeds, Dee Zone Productions, Flava Choon Republic, New Look Studio and Industry Media. The platform will be launched towards the end of this month or early August with 90 titles procured from the content producers that will run for the next 18 months.
While selection of the inaugural lot does not feature any female producers, the CEO has promised to balance the equation in BoFiNet’s next content sourcing. “The criteria that we used to select the contracted creators were through a public tender,” Mabua said. “We were looking for different genres and evaluated and picked the top productions with good quality standards under each. This has not been an easy exercise but it is a start. When we were evaluating, we looked at the content and the company. For our upcoming tender, we will be explicit about including women producers.”
Content from producers was not commissioned and the CEO will not disclose how much the company spent to source the content. He noted that the platform would feature live channels on Btv and Now TV and include in its offerings a Catch-Up television service and local radio stations.
Officiating at the contract signing ceremony, the Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary -ICT of the Ministry Transport and Communications, Cecil Masiga, noted: “We want to foster healthy competition in the sector. If the content is appealing, the sector’s contribution will be a significant contributor to the GDP. The growth of the sector will require significant skills and ingenuity. I strongly believe that they have the ability and capability to adopt a strong, innovative approach to the creation of this content.”
Commenting on behalf of the selected producers, Thabiso Maretlwaneng of Deezone Productions applauded BoFiNet for the window of opportunity that he said would save the industry that it was the first to take a hit from COVID-19 and would probably be the last to open. “This came at the right time because we are facing the hardest times because of the virus,” Maretlwaneng said. “It is a great opportunity because we are constrained and cannot go out there to create content. BoFiNet decided to save us with this digital platform that will show the world what Batswana are doing.”