Disturbed by the persistent depletion of profits as a result of the ruthless activities of movies pirates, key stakeholders of Kannywood, the Hausa film industry have introduced an online movie streaming application that would enable fans to subscribe and watch Hausa films online with ease.
The streaming service, named Northflix, was designed in a similar fashion as its American counterpart, Netflix, where movie lovers are offered online streaming of a library of films and television programs, including those produced in-house.
The online movie streaming app was launched on Saturday at a well-attended event held at Bristol Palace Hotel in Kano city.
Speaking on the app, co-founder of Northflix, Jamilu Abdussalam, a professional business strategist, said the initiative followed over five years of careful research which showed how the Kannywood was suffering from massive depletion of revenues as a result of ineffective and exploitative distribution channels.
He said apart from the activities of pirates, who download movies online or copy them from DVDs for free distribution to the public, the coming of cinemas also did not help movie makers.
According to Mr Abdussalam, a study showed that 98 percent of Hausa movie fans do not use their money to buy the films but watch for free due to piracy, but he assured that with Northflix, piracy would be a thing of the past.
“If you produce a movie and decide to show it at the cinemas, they take 60 percent of the profits and give you 40 percent in the name of overhead charges which is exploitative. Another drawbacks of cinemas is that a film producer is allowed to only show their movies for two weeks after which they will have to find other means of selling their products. Also, many of our people hate going to cinemas with their families to watch films because of religious and moral constraints,” he said.
“On the other hand, the emergence of viewing centres also did not help matters due to lack of accountability by the operators. For instance, it is difficult to track the number of people that have paid to watch a film at a particular viewing centre talkless of many viewing centres. This contributes to massive loss of profits by film makers,” he added.
Abdussalam recalled how he conceived the idea of creating Northflix after a trip to the United States, adding that he also struggled to convince northerners to accept the idea after he returned.
“The reason I insisted on finding Hausa northerners to invest on Northflix is because producing quality and acceptable Hausa movies involves sensitive issues like religion and culture,” he said.
Highlighting the advantages of Northflix, Abdussalam said the online movie streaming service has the potential to generate at least N5.7 billion each year.
“Once you download a movie on the platform, you can only watch the downloaded film for three days, after which you would have to re-subscribe to watch the same movie. This is done in order to prevent any possibility for piracy,” he said.
He noted that unlike the cinema arrangement, Northflix offers movie produces a rate of 60 percent profit, while the operators of the service retain 40 percent, adding that promoters of the app are working with international consultants to ensure sustainability of the platform.
Abdussalam said Norhtflix would not be threatened by traditional film distribution channels because the platform would only accept high quality content from selected producers.
“If you choose to take your movies to the television stations, that is your choice, after all not any movie may be qualified to meet Northflix standards. We have our own producers, in fact, we have invested money to produce movie series that would be only available on our platform.
“We intend to see Northflix competing shoulder to shoulder with Netflix because Hausa culture is one of the leading cultures across the world. Our culture is rich, our content is rich,” he said.
On his part, ace filmmaker and actor, Ali Nuhu said Kannywood cannot survive without embracing new technology of selling and marketing movies.
“In 2017, when I went to the United Kingdom to show some of our movies, we were ridiculed because they noticed we were using DVDs which are no longer in existence in that country.
“We were told to use flash drives, memory cards or other modern gadgets and that was the moment I realized that the Hausa film industry is in trouble unless we adopt changes. Northflix is the future of Kannywood,” he said.
However, despite the potential success that Northflix is capable of delivering, experts have identified a number of critical setbacks that must be taken care of.
According to Professor Abdallah Uba Adamu, Vice Chancellor of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), for initiatives like Northflix to succeed, movie producers must tackle bad and inaccurate subtitles of Hausa films which contributes in rejection of the content.
Secondly, Adamu identified unchecked and indiscriminate sharing of Hausa movies on social media platforms, saying with free content circulating online, nobody would use their money to purchase any movies.
Thirdly, he said even if producers succeed in blocking illegal movie content from circulating online, they must be able to produce high quality movies that accurately depict the richness and exclusiveness of the Hausa culture such that it can appeal to global audience.
“We hope that it will succeed as long as the right content is being produced especially if the movie narratives move to dispel perceptions and stereotypes of insurgency, kidnapping, rape and other social vices which have become prevalent in the North,” Professor Adamu observed.
Similarly, Ali Nuhu also urged his colleagues to organize another meeting so that movie producers and other stakeholders can tackle the issue of poor translation and subtitles by hiring professionals who can do the job.
In his contribution, veteran actor and filmmaker, Ibrahim Mandawari, raised the issue of poor interpretation of scripts by actors, saying no movie can achieve the necessary success if actors are not being re-oriented and trained to accurately interpret their roles.
In the same vein, Umar Sa’id Tudun Wada, professional broadcaster and head of the Kano State Radio Corporation (Radio Kano), decried lack of technology to assess the extent of revenues being generated by Kannywood.
“The coming of Northflix would provide the opportunity to analyze movie ratings and viewership. In Hollywood last year, a turnover of $41.7 billion was generated but here we don’t have the technology to help us compute Kannywood’s turnover,” he said.
However, TudunWada noted that despite the setbacks, Kannywood had contributed to peace in Kano state through provision of thousands of jobs and expertise to both skilled and unskilled youths.
DAILYFOCUS reports that the launch of Northflix was attended by several key filmmakers, producers, musicians and actors including Hadiza Gabon, Sadiq Sani Sadiq, Aminu Saira, Yaseen Auwal, Garzali Miko, Aminu Sheriff Momo, Nazifi Asnanic, Ali Jita and Falalu Dorayi.