Netflix goes to Nollywood? Lebara Play launches in UK
James R | On 04, Jul 2015
Netflix is going to Nollywood with the launch of Lebara Play in the UK.
The “only multi-ethnic entertainment service” has landed on British shores, with around 3,000 movies (both free and premium) available to stream across more than 150 TV channels in 13 different languages.
The OTT platform, which aims to bridge the content gap for migrants, has signed deals with some of the world’s biggest rights holders to offer films to Tamil, Turkish, French West African and English West African audiences across Europe.
Partners include Sun Network, home to Sun TV, KTV and Adithya, the most popular Tamil entertainment channels worldwide, premium pan-African channel Ebony Life, leading Nigerian channel Silverbird, top-rating Turkish channel ATV Avrupa, Euro D, Eurostar and TV8 International, plus an extensive catalogue of Turkish movies.
“All Lebara Play’s content is 100 per cent legal and licensed, which not only produces a consistent and high quality user experience, but also provides a legitimate alternative to counterfeit DVDs and illegal services, and sends out a strong anti-piracy message in support of the creative industries,” said the company in an official statement.
Included in its partners is the number one French Nollywood movies channel, Nollywood TV, and the African Movie Channel, the first time it has been licenced outside of Africa.
The launch marks a significant step in the Nigerian film industry (known as “Nollywood”), which churns out around 50 films every week, a number topped only by India’s Bollywood. With only approximately 14 cinemas in the country, these are largely distributed on DVD. With digital technological replacing discs, though, the industry is undergoing a big shift.
“Distribution is the biggest problem for Nollywood,” Obi Emelonye, director of Nollywood film series The Calabash, told the BBC. “DVD is dying out and since we are still dependent on DVD then our industry suffers.”
Now, the Nollywood streaming industry is growing and last year contributed 1.4 per cent of the country’s GDP. In 20111, iRoko TV was launched – a Netflix equivalent service for Nigerian audiences. According to founder Jason Njoku, the company spends several million dollars a year on content rights, with most titles coming from Nigeria and Ghana.
Over here, though, audiences have been under-served. Only recently, Netflix UK signed a big deal for a range of 18 Nollywood films, including Mad Couple 1 and 2 and Finding Mercy 1 and 2. (A complete list is below.) This is the first time that Nigerian films have ever been available on Netflix in the UK.
The streaming giant, though, has competition from Lebara’s new service.
Mr Yoganathan Ratheesan, Chairman and CEO of Lebara Group, said, “Serving the migrant community is at the core of everything we do at Lebara. While the need to call loved ones is never far away, as new locations become home for our customers, different needs such as financial services and entertainment become more important. Lebara Play is an unrivalled service designed for an under-served community; and the launch proves that we’re delivering on our plans to disrupt the existing entertainment landscape and diversify our communications business.”
Lebara Playa offers HD and SD quality streaming on mobile, computer and tablet devices, as well via a dedicated set-top box for TV sets. The app is available to download for free from Google Play for smartphones or tablets and is coming to iTunes App Store shortly, while the set top box is available from selected retail stores.
Subscription packages start from £9.99/month for web, tablet and smartphone, with 2 months free of customers sign up for a year. The set top box special introductory price of £149 (standard price £199) includes a year’s unlimited viewing of your chosen subscription package.
Customers can register a maximum of three devices to their account and watch two simultaneously.
The site has launched in the UK, Germany, Netherlands and France, with the rest of Europe set to launch over the summer. The company has plans to enter other territories worldwide by the end of 2015, with an expanding catalogue to include Romanian, Polish, Hindi and other content.
List of Nollywood films on Netflix UK
Confusion Na Wa
Lies Men Tell
Mad Couple 2
Finding Mercy 2
Ties That Bind
Keeping My Man
Knocking on Heaven’s Door