With roughly 193 million total subscribers in over 190 countries, it is among the world’s largest entertainment empires.But while subscriber numbers are up, filming of new content has halted due to the pandemic, a big blow to the entertainment industry from Hollywood to Bollywood. One bright side, according to Netflix’s chief content officer and newly appointed co-CEO Ted Sarandos during an April earnings call, is that the company’s 2020 lineup has already been “largely shot and in post-production remotely.”Netflix also offers its eye on untapped market potential — specially in Africa, where the streaming service has a presence in all 54 countries. In December 2019, the organization brought on Kenyan entertainment veteran and film producer Dorothy Ghettuba as the head of African Original Programming.
CNN’s Eleni Giokos recently spoke with Ghettuba to to breakdown how Netflix has adapted its production during the pandemic, and find out what its expectations are for more Africa programming.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Eleni Giokos: The pandemic has thrown a lot of your plans off-kilter. What have you been doing at this time, as we are kind of still sitting in a hibernation phase?
Dorothy Ghettuba: I’m finding stories. This is the greatest time to find stories. What we have been doing is we are betting forward. We have not slowed down. It’s been about me talking to writers, taking a look at scripts, taking a look at stories and finding the most readily useful stories to inform out there.EG: Give me a sense of the appetite you’ve seen for Netflix from the [African] continent. Would you say the turning point was when you developed something that Africans could really relate to through “Blood & Water” and “Queen Sono”?
DG: The appetite is there. Africans are undoubtedly excited about the neighborhood content — and not only local content, but most readily useful in class. There’s a sense of pride and excitement in Africa. And when I say Africa, I truly mean it throughout the continent.
EG: Globally, you’ve seen demand for streaming services broadly speaking increasing. Have you seen a rise specifically given that we’ve experienced a lockdown, and could it be a similar trend playing out in Africa?
DG: It’s always going to be a reflection of the global pattern. We have observed an uptick of it and we have been happy and we’re excited that people are turning to us to entertain them when they’re in the home.
EG: How is Netflix approaching content production during times of lockdown and a health crisis?
DG: I think this crisis has made everyone pause and now we really have to relook at how exactly we produce. Productions take place in pretty intimate, high-touch surroundings with countless artists, people and creators all together in close quarters. So for people in the short term, these practices should be changed.
EG: What can you say has been your biggest challenge over this time around?
DG: Can I say power cuts and load shedding and data? Those infrastructural challenges are the items that keep us up through the night as an organization. And it’s a big challenge across many African countries. So we’re just attempting to find solutions. We’re trying to say, ‘how can we make our services as data-effective as you can?’
EG: Netflix possesses a massive cover international production. Does the organization plan on licensing more deals? We know that you worked towards the creation of more original content. What may be the balance there?
DG: We want to have this global catalog, so that all our members can watch our shows at precisely the same time. That’s why originals have become, very important to us. Our ultimate aim is that individuals want to be your home of the best-in-class African stories. We want one to know that if you should be looking for the most effective African stories, then you will discover them on Netflix. We are going to expand heavily to make sure that goal is met.
EG:If you consider the rest of the world, they’re able to capitalize and monetize on talents. But the continent, as a whole, is not exporting a lot. Do you imagine that it might actually be a different type of commodity that we could export?DG: Our shows are broadcasting in over 190 countries. Surely this is the fastest method to export our stories and our culture to all of those other world. It’s always been, “I have to go and I have to make it in Hollywood,” but now you may be a superstar in your backyard. Netflix is that vehicle and in the event that you look at the stories we are telling, our culture is there. We believe rich stories may come from anywhere and may be loved every-where across the world. We want our African stories to be watched throughout the world.