So. Hands up if you’ve never downloaded anything illegal from the net.
Like the Microsoft Word you use for typing your job application letters? Your favourite music playlist? Savefrom.net?
Right! I see you.
Technology is supposed to be our friend. It is supposed to help us become better persons by giving us free courses and news about international events. But you and I know there is more to technology than just the benefit it gives. Take the internet for instance. Apart from the viruses that come with free downloads, it has made it easier to share illegally acquired videos and music. This is called piracy, in case you have decided to not know it. It is also called stealing. Yeah, sakawa!
Ghanaians consume a lot of pirated content. From software to music to film, we are ready to swallow whatever we can get for free. Who wouldn’t? It is the reason a site like Piratebay is in the top 20 of the most visited websites in Ghana. Savefrom.net is also up there with the most popular among Ghanaians. In fact, if the content we pirated were junk food, most of us would be suffering from obesity by now.
Ghanaian filmmakers are crying
Fact is that, we don’t wait for a moment to realise what this means for the people whose work we steal. Musicians and filmmakers are finding it more and more difficult to make films. They are afraid to invest the needed money to make a top notch film because they will not get the returns back. People will just stand by the road side and buy DVDs knowing well enough this is illegal. While you are binge-watching your favourite show, remember somewhere in Opera Square, a distributor is out of business. Somewhere in a studio, a scriptwriter is not paid. Somewhere in Kantamanto, an actor is sorting through second-hand clothes to buy for his child while his film is being watched by ten thousand people on university campuses.
I was really excited about Iflix coming to Ghana. For those who don’t know them, Iflix is the leader in emerging market when it comes to SVoD – Subscription Video On Demand. SVoD means you pay a monthly fee to have unlimited access to all the content on their platform. In Ghana, the fee is GHS 10.75. That’s right. Just over $2. In addition, Iflix offers a 33% discount on subscriptions paid on a yearly basis. So instead of paying over GHS 120, you get to pay only GHS 86 if you pay it in one go
Iflix is cheaper than Iroko and Ibaka. Iroko TV charges $7.99 for one month subscription, while Ibaka TV has a $5 price if you purchase a yearly subscription at $60. Also, these two platforms show only Nollywood movies. This leaves Iflix in a very important position in terms of content variety. We love our foreign films very much.
And, oh, Iflix has Kumawood and other John Dumelo-kind of movies too.
Can Iflix solve the piracy problems in Ghana
Before we answer that, let’s understand the advantages Iflix brings.
First, you can download any film or TV show and watch later. There are options from music playlists to documentaries to Bollywood movies. This might be a problem if you are a Ghanaian movie purist. But they have Kumawood and Jackie Appiah movies too.
Their biggest asset, for me, is their free month trial. This means you can register and watch any film you want for one month, without paying a pesewa. You don’t even have to enter your credit card details or home address. All you need is your mobile number and a good internet connection, and you are ready to watch.
This might be their biggest challenge. I am not sure how they can stop people from abusing the trial version. Anybody can secure a new mobile number just to enjoy the free trial over and over again. So unless they have an in-built system that can ward people off, this might come back to haunt them.
But research in America says that many of those who use a trial version end up buying a subscription. But that is America, right?
Will Iflix work?
You should know that Iflix is not run by some clueless rich dudes from America. For about three years now, they have been called the Netflix of the emerging markets. They have over one billion members from over 20 countries, including Nigeria and Kenya in Africa. They recently acquired $ 133 million from investors which they intend to invest in their operations. This will give them the resources to partner with some of your local producers to create local movies that match international best practices, or so it is hoped.
It is important that Iflix works in Ghana. The possibilities for a ripple effect in the creative industry is enormous. Film makers who can measure how much they can earn back in revenue in a year are more likely to gain funds from credit institutions. They are also more likely to pay better, invest in quality productions that would mean more jobs for digital artists, writers, cameramen and technicians, royalty for theme songs, and a proper setup to showcase Ghana to the world.
Iflix promises no ads and no contract. At this stage, it is relying strongly on the value of its content and trusting the audience to not cop its films.
So the question is not, “Can Iflix solve Ghana’s piracy problems?” It is this: “Will Ghanaians help Iflix solve its piracy problems?”