EbonyLife TV and the challenges of running a 24-hour channel in Nigeria

Mo Abudu announced on Twitter and Instagram last month that she was pulling the plug on her 24-hour black entertainment and lifestyle network, EbonyLife TV on 31 July. The channel which launched on 1 July 2013 had been on DStv for seven years.

During that time, CEO, Abudu had tried her hand at a number things. She rebranded her legacy show “Moments with Mo” to “Moments.” It allowed hosts other than herself anchor the talkshow with Nigerian and South African presenters. The show led to the spin-off “Moments Z” which targeted Gen Z. And in 2015 Ebonylife TV tested the waters of filmmaking. The network’s first feature film was “Fifty.”

Since then, Abudu has recorded several strides including the launch of EbonyLife Cinemas in December 2019, whilst “The Wedding Party,” “The Wedding Party 2” and “Chief Daddy” still hold the record for Nigeria’s top three highest grossing films.

Snapshot from Mo Abudu’s Instagram page

As part of the channel termination announcement, she stated that a lot of Ebonylife flagship series and movies are available to stream on Netflix. Those that hadn’t found a new home in Netflix would remain available for streaming on the Ebony ON app.

Abudu has received several accolades with some likening her work to that of Oprah Winfrey. Yet, the abrupt discontinuation of the television network was not a shock. For a while, EbonyLife TV seemed to have deviated from its mission ‘to create original, premium and inspiring content with an African soul that showcases the best of Africa for a Global Black audience.’ About two years ago, it began to air telenovelas most of which had already aired on Telemundo. It signalled a struggling television network that wasn’t getting enough eyeballs.

The reason behind the decision to discontinue the channel is unknown. But if the impact of COVID-19 on the entertainment sector has anything to do with it, who can blame Ms Abudu? One thing is certain, operating a successful and profitable 24-hour channel whether on terrestrial or pay-TV in Nigeria is tough, with or without COVID-19.

EbonyLife TV at launch was fresh. It was famed for its talkshows which spoke to the urban middle class. “Men’s Corner” and “Love Lounge” were the late night shows that were bold and daring. And about two years ago, the Wedding Channel Africa belt was introduced. Sadly, Nigerians have a very narrow view of what entertainment is. Hence several channels come and go off the DStv bouquet every so often. The average Nigerian TV viewer also does not understand that creating content is expensive. So, they keep demanding new content yet want to pay peanuts as pay-TV subscriptions.

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About the author

A lover of the arts who sees film and television through the eyes of the Nigerian viewer.