Entertainment Sanura
From L: Veteran actor Eddie Kimani , Nyota Waziri and Ivy Wanjiru on set of Sanura , an original Swahili telenovela produced by pay TV service provider MultiChoice

Last week, pay TV service provider MultiChoice Kenya launched Sanura, an original Swahili telenovela and one of the most anticipated local shows to premiere this year.

Sanura follows a teenager’s journey fighting oppressive patriarchal norms in her hometown of Lamu and features the staple blend of coming to age narratives, unrequited love, family secrets and convoluted quests for revenge.

MultiChoice has reportedly spent tens of millions of shillings to produce Sanura which is set entirely in Lamu hiring dozens of cast and crew from the local community.

Sanura is just the latest local production in a string of many that have in recent years seen creatives in Kenya’s entertainment industry reap windfalls as the sector enters a new phase of economic prosperity and with organizations like Multichoice providing the infrastructure for growth.

With audiences in markets like the United States and Europe stagnating or in decline, global entertainment companies have set their sights on Africa to provide the new growth frontier.

In the past two years, entertainment giants including MultiChoice, Netflix, and Walt Disney have pumped tens of millions in investment to produce original local content targeted at a growing streaming audience in Africa.

Last month, Disney plus became the latest to wade into the fray, launching its streaming service in six African countries which is expected to be scaled up in the coming months.

Africa’s video-on-demand streaming industry is estimated to have approximately 4 million active monthly subscribers spread across the various service providers. This figure however excludes users that share accounts and analysts believe the numbers are much higher.

A report by think tank Research and Markets indicates that streaming video on-demand subscribers in Africa are set to double by 2027 with revenue significant projections.

“African OTT movie and TV episode revenues will reach Sh234 billion by 2027 – triple from Sh72 billion in 2021,” states the report in part. “South Africa and Nigeria will together account for 56 per cent of the total by 2027, leaving Sh104 billion divided between the other 33 countries.”

Auditing and research firm Deloitte says competition and a growing tech-savvy population will see the global video-on-demand industry witness dynamic evolution as discerning users gravitate towards familiar and affordable preferences.

“As leading streaming providers expand globally, while national media companies spin up their own domestic streaming services, the amplified competition is creating abundant consumer choice—and accelerating churn,” said Deloitte in its Technology and Media Trends report for 2022.

“In 2022, Deloitte predicts that at least 150 million streaming video-on-demand services (SVOD) paid subscriptions will be canceled worldwide, with churn rates of up to 30% per market,” states the report in part.

Aside from being mobile first, Kenya’s subscription market is relatively advanced, and service providers have tried and tested various value propositions to foster customer loyalty for years.

MultiChoice, a legacy brand in Pay Tv services across the continent launched Showmax back in 2015 to hedge its key market in anticipation for the onslaught by the likes of Netflix and Disney Plus that soon followed.

Showmax recently crossed the 800 million subscriber base in the continent and is set to hit 2.1 million by 2027.

The biggest beneficiaries of this new boom in the local entertainment industry are creatives that have for years lamented poor working conditions, low pay and unstable long-term career prospects.

Eddie Kimani, a veteran actor and one of the main cast members of the recently launched telenovela Sanura – says the industry today provides more stability to both upcoming and established practitioners.

“In the past the industry was unpredictable and for many in the industry there was no clear way of planning a career path because of the precarious nature of the job,” he explains.

Eddie Kimani
Eddie Kimani on the set of ‘Sanura’ produced entirely in Lamu

“Nowadays companies like MultiChoice pay monthly salaries to cast and crew and with a large number of productions currently happening in the country, many actors are benefiting,” he said.

With more streaming companies and networks setting up camp in Nairobi, the industry is poised for more activities and additional investments mean audiences in the region can look forward to new culturally relevant local productions while creatives can reap the benefits of an industry that is slowly but surely beginning to come of age.     

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