31 Aug 2016

Nigeria Com speaker spotlight - Ultima Studio's Oyewale Oyepeju


By Amy Turner - Com Series Staff Writer, KNect365


The Nigeria Com Speaker Spotlight Interview Series continues this week with a look at the Nigerian online and digital entertainment industries and how cloud services are currently being deployed in the sector.  

We spoke to Oyewale Oyepeju, Head of IT at Ultima Limited - Nigeria's foremost television production company, which produces some of the country's top programmes, including Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Project Fame West Africa.

Oyewale discusses how cloud services are able to nurture local content, what challenges still hinder cloud adoption and the secret to Nollywood's success. 
   
1. We look forward to welcoming you to Nigeria Com, next month. You’re presenting on utilising the adoption of cloud services in the online and digital industries - how are cloud services currently employed in a Nigerian broadcasting context and are adoption rates by studios and broadcasters high?

Cloud services are predominantly used for content marketing and ad hoc purposes within the Nigerian broadcasting sector. Video streaming platforms are used for the live broadcasting of events and on-demand video services. The use of cloud for post-production purposes is almost non-existent as many broadcasters still rely on on-premise post-production suites. The adoption of cloud among broadcasters is low and the approach to cloud within the broadcast ecosystem is more personal than collaborative and ad hoc in nature.


"The Nigerian entertainment industry has grown in leaps and bounds, thanks to social media and innovations from young Nigerians"

2. You have been working as the Head of I.T at Ultima Studios for nearly 6 years, what changes and developments have you seen with regards to cloud services and the Nigerian digital entertainment industry in general?

Global cloud providers are gradually making their presence known in the country. There are also collaborative efforts among OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and cloud providers in simplifying cloud services and products. I have also seen some fair attempts to cater for the needs of broadcasters and to encourage some of us to utilise cloud. The Nigerian entertainment industry has grown in leaps and bounds, thanks to social media and innovations from young Nigerians who are churning out entertainment content that have put the country on the global entertainment map. 


Telco platforms have also been instrumental in much of the development witnessed over the years. Music tracks and videos are offered as value-added products to mobile subscribers, providing income streams and empowering the growing youth population. We have also witnessed growth in e-commerce within the digital entertainment industry. E-payment platforms are leveraged to provide billing support for video and audio on-demand services. Live coverage of events with OB Van is beginning to be an option rather than a necessity. There is also global recognition for our creative talents, and this is not just for performing artists, but also other talent in the entertainment value chain.

"IT at Ultima has grown from a support department to a strategic business enabler. We have developed from being a cost centre to an income-generating department"

3. How has your role developed with the change and exponential growth in the entertainment industry in Nigeria?

My role has indeed developed over the years. It has evolved from managing IT infrastructure to the addition of digital and value-added services in my sector. I now play a key role in the application of new technologies for strategic initiatives that have set Ultima apart as a leading entertainment content production company in Africa. 


IT at Ultima has grown from a support department to a strategic business enabler. We have developed from being a cost centre to an income-generating department. We are saddled with the responsibility of making the best use of available digital platforms and infrastructures, achieving more with less, as broadcast, marketing and information technologies converge. 

Collectively, we have achieved many firsts in digital initiatives within the entertainment industry. All these can be attributed to Ultima’s culture of Innovation, continual improvement, customer excellence and value creation.


4. How do cloud services nurture the entertainment industry and make developing local content easier?

Cloud services have bridged gaps and encouraged collaboration among artists across countries. Nigerian entertainment content is now receiving the attention of people across the world. International acts are collaborating with our artists as a result of the appreciation of the works of Nigerian artists. 


Cloud services would continue to make entertainment content available to a wider audience, preserve and protect content as digital right management evolves. Access to cutting edge tools on cloud platforms will improve the quality of content. Availability of backup services will also protect investment in entertainment content. 

The ability to monetise content across multiple marketing and social platforms with resultant positive impact on bottom lines will encourage local content developers. Improvement in multi-platform distribution of content with its resultant effects on revenue assurance will also encourage local content development.

"Cloud providers also need to be innovative in cloud product development. Not all existing cloud products are suitable for the Nigerian online and digital industry"

5. What are still the major challenges or blockers to higher adoption rates of cloud and how can they begin to be overcome?


We still have infrastructural bottlenecks, general paranoia, unfavourable price points, lack of trust, dearth of innovation, lack of awareness, privacy, regulatory and compliance issues as major challenges. 50% of the Nigerian population that are online are limited with wireless broadband. Real growth in cloud adoption will come with fixed broadband penetration that is currently at 10%. The Federal Government should do more than promising fixed broadband penetration of 36% by 2018. 


We want accelerated efforts towards infrastructural development. Free-basics should be re-imagined. We need to have true free basics in Nigeria that give more data allowance than a few MBs. Regulatory and oversight functions must encourage local cloud players for faster adoption. 

IT needs to also bridge the knowledge gap between IT and finance on one hand and IT and business on the other. IT leaders need to effectively communicate the benefits of cloud beyond the nice-to-haves. The cloud discussion should not be seen as one that needs to be desperately won, but rather one that needs to factor in the views of other stakeholders. 

Cloud providers also need to be innovative in cloud product development. Not all existing cloud products are suitable for the Nigerian online and digital industry. We want to see more stakeholder engagement towards the roll out of cloud products in the country. Having a cloud service that delivers value for broadcasters and independent content producers should be achievable within the Nigeria context.

"Netflix's entry into the continent is a welcome development and one that must be applauded"

6. Netflix has recently launched on the continent; do you believe it is a threat to local content creation and local television channels? Or could it actually be a welcome addition to the space and spur more diverse, locally produced content?

Netflix's entry into the continent is a welcome development and one that must be applauded. I do not see it as a threat to local content creation or local TV channels. 


In fact, Netflix needs to have local content in their library to be able to woo local subscribers. Netflix's entry will not cause any significant loss of market share for the local television channels. It would need to develop local content before any significant market share is won. 

Its entry will encourage more diverse local content development and further spur local channels to innovate and do more in other to retain their subscriber base.


7. Do you believe current business models are sustainable for local production and content creation?


The current business models are not sustainable. Key initiatives that encourage more diverse business models need to be encouraged. There is still some sort of monopoly in the content market, with the value and price of content being determined by a few content marketing companies and not necessarily by the market forces. 


Independent content producers are also not able to push their content to a wider audience even on “fremium” platforms, due to insufficient marketing budget. 

However, Digital Switch Over (DSO) of all TV stations in Nigeria is a game changer that will encourage a level playing field for everyone. DSO will encourage more DTT ownership, bridge the gap between content producers and channel owners and also encourage data-driven business decisions. Moreover, the DSO is an improvement in the quality of transmission.

"Nollywood is said to be 3rd largest film industry in volume, owing to the resilience and ingenuity of Nigerian content producers"


8. Nigeria’s biggest success story in entertainment and film has undoubtedly been Nollywood; what is it about the Nollywood model that has taken the world by storm? How do you think it is going to grow and adapt in this African digital age?

The Nollywood model is rooted in the conversion of Nigerian cultural diversity, historical, political, socio-economic values and beliefs into films, at a relatively low budget. Nollywood is said to be 3rd largest film industry in volume, owing to the resilience and ingenuity of Nigerian content producers. 


The growth in Nollywood would be consolidated in the digital age. Most of these stories that have been appreciated in films would reach a wider audience as digital technology awareness and affordability improve. Improvement in digital distribution will also translate to improvement in Nollywood, in both volume and value. 

Furthermore, more investment in local content production will be experienced as quality standards are being raised in this digital age. The stories will not change much but the context will, as many content producers concentrate more on contextual issues in film production.


"I look forward to sharing knowledge, networking and collaborating on key areas that will encourage the growth of cloud adoption"



9. What do you expect from speaking at Nigeria Com 2016?

I expect an understanding of the key issues affecting cloud adoption in Nigeria. I'm also looking forward to seeing a good turnout of stakeholders within the online, broadcast and digital industries.

10. What are you most looking forward to at this year’s event?

I look forward to meeting stakeholders within the online and digital industry, as well as sharing knowledge, networking and collaborating on key areas that will encourage the growth of cloud adoption within the online and digital industries.


Oyewale will presenting on day 2 of Nigeria Com 2016 on: Presentation: Utilising the adoption of cloud services in the online and digital industry

You can find out more about the event here.

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