TelOne dials filmmakers a lifeline

Takudzwa Chihambakwe
FINALLY, fortune may be favouring filmmakers in the unpredictable and underfunded Zimbabwean arts landscape.
When DStv opened its doors to local filmmakers in 2015 by launching Zambezi Magic, a channel that commissions works from Southern Africa excluding South Africa, filmmakers that previously struggled to get platforms for their content outside ZBC-TV, got an alternative.

In the two years since that historic announcement, ZBC-TV improved payment for local content and saw a boom in the number of shows being produced. Productions such as “Muchaneta” and “Muzita Ra Baba” among many others, were birthed.

Recently, Government weighed in to finance film productions through the Zimbabwe Digital broadcasting programme, which supports productions with budgets that range from $10 000 to $30 000. While this has been happening, there has been a revolution: the emergence of television streaming services.

World over, television streaming services are now raking in more profits than pay-tv platforms.

Zimbabweans contribute to the millions who are drifting from pay-tv platforms such as DStv to streaming services such as Netflix and Kwese-iflix. But unfortunately, while platforms like Kwese-iflix are gradually gaining traction, they do not accommodate local filmmakers.

Seeing this, TelOne – a Government-owned telecommunications company – has partnered South Africa’s Discover Digital to launch Africa’s first fully converged on-demand entertainment service, Digital Entertainment On Demand (DEOD).

TelOne divisional retail director Joseph Machiva last week said while other streaming services operating in Zimbabwe used international shows to lure subscribers, they would forge partnerships with local filmmakers to be the go-to platform for those who love local content.

“We have a number of shows that appeal to a cross-section of the market on the DEOD platform. However, I am excited to say that we have launched this service with a number of shows from Europe and America, and are working hard to ensure that we get local content on the platform as well,” said Machiva.

He added: “We have already begun consultations with a number of local content producers as we map the way forward. I am excited to say that on behalf of my team we have opened our doors to filmmakers and we want them to come on board with their content.

“So if there are any interested content producers they should come to us and we begin working on making local content.”

Machiva highlighted that it is only by having local content on their platform that they can penetrate the market.

“We believe that local content will be a key factor for us to penetrate the market. So going forward we will be focusing a lot on this area as well as building our international content library.”

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