Ibironke Shilelola is one of the reckoning forces in the film and TV content distribution landscape. Originally an economist, Shilelola’s foray into the media could be traced back to her university days where she kicked off a model and acting career, appearing in TV soap operas such as Papa Ajasco and Super Story. Her parents were however uncomfortable with her career direction. An opportunity to work with Consolidated Media Associates — owners of Soundcity Radio and TV and producers of TV shows such as Everyday People — later presented itself and she willingly jumped on it. The rest they say is history. From launching Soundcity in Nigeria to producing the first ever Nigerian telenovela, Shilelola continues to reach for lofty heights. She scored a historic milestone this year when she opened a cinema exhibition hall. The Interview chats with the female entrepreneur on the rapidly changing media landscape.
What changes have you seen in your 20-year media career?
When I look back at when I first started my career, I see dynamism; from being a model, actress to working with CMA to launch Soundcity in Nigeria.
I started from being an executive to becoming the head of marketing in the organisation.
Marriage came along the way and I thought I would settle for family life but you know, once you are a professional, you will always want to keep building your career.
I finally started my own company, MicroMedia Marketing Limited.
It is a television content marketing company and we started with the Africa Magic TV series Tinsel.
We later distributed other titles and later progressed to producing our own series ‘Taste of Love’ in 2014.
That was the first telenovela that has ever been produced in Nigeria.
We followed it up with another series ‘The Casino’.
Presently, we have over six to seven titles that we distributed to over 40 countries in Africa.
From Francophone to Anglophone Africa and most recent, Lusophone Africa.
Recently we opened a cinema exhibition hall, Heritage Cinemas in Alimosho.
Delving into the cinematic chains is part of the dynamism that comes with the media industry.
It is the ability of any stakeholder to recognise opportunities and envision the next phase.
What exactly are the viewers are watching, where they are located, what are they doing, that is their source of livelihood. You need all this information in order to offer value to the consumers.
There is a big future for streaming services in Nigeria and that’s one of the reasons we started distributing our content to quite a number of video-on-demand platforms
The cinema exhibition industry is clearly dominated by men. As the only woman in that field, does that put any pressure on you?
No, not at all. If anything, they have been very accommodating.
Here is the deal: distribution of content, especially movies, are determined by the number of exhibiting halls that are available and that’s where you can generate revenue from.
So the more halls that we have, the more the avenue to generate more revenues.
Any way you look at it, it’s a plus to that industry that Micromedia is part of that chain of operation because we need more cinema halls.
We have less than 100 cinemas and the total generation of movie viewing is perhaps N5bn.
It is limited. In other climes, South African for example where you can’t even transgress their content outside Southern Africa, they generate over USD 100 million with almost 400 cinema halls.
And the cinema halls that we are talking about are not located centrally in the big cities. It’s an added advantage to the association that we are on board, and they have been so welcoming, extremely cordial and supportive.
With the rise of streaming platforms globally, do you foresee a future in that distribution arm?
There is a big future for streaming services in Nigeria and that’s one of the reasons we started distributing our content to quite a number of video-on-demand platforms.
The opportunity lies there, just that with streaming buffering is a limitation.
The fact that your internet is limited is the only thing limiting the average Nigerian from enjoying it.
But day in, day out, different companies are coming up with offers whereby they offer their content on streaming platforms so that it will be easy for the consumer to watch.
Will it be right to assume that you have played in every known distribution channel in Nigeria?
There is no arm of distributing channel that I haven’t played a heavy role on apart from the DVD distribution
Because of piracy. It discouraged me from the onset.
What has been your career highlight(s) so far?
Launching Heritage Cinemas was a major career highlight. The entire project development was outside of my forte and there was heavy reliance on artisan and technical skill workers.
Ultimately, achieving the project within a specific time-frame of 12 months was a record-breaking jubilation.
Secondly, launching the telenovela series – Taste of Love and distributing our portfolio of drama series in the East African Market are key career highlights.