This essay provides an analysis of the impact of Netflix on the African screen media sector, by focusing on the Nigerian film industry (Nollywood). It follows the invitation to study Netflix in specific socio-historical and national contexts that several scholars have formulated over the past few years as a way to respond to the complexity of the emerging landscape of internet-distributed television. In order to achieve this objective, the essay focuses on the impact of Netflix’s involvement on the production and distribution of Nigerian content, offering also a few insights on the equally important topic of Netflix’s impact on African audiences. The overall aim is to historicize Netflix’s intervention, detailing the phases of its involvement in Nigeria, its specificities in relation to the intervention of previous local and international actors in the field of content production and distribution (on both streaming and digital television networks), and the controversies its arrival triggers among film professionals in the largest African screen media industry.
In his precise yet evocative introduction to Bullets over Bombay: Satya and the Hindi film Gangster, film critic Uday Bhatia writes that as he began speaking to the crew members on the gangster film Satya (Ram Gopal Varna, 1998), he often found them narrating different accounts of the same behind-the-scenes moments. He jokes that maybe the Satya team had colluded “to each tell me a slightly different version of what went down” (p. 10). Instead of taking this as a limitation, Bhatia recognises this as reflecting the nature of the film’s making and narrates
The mini-series Ethos (Bir Başkadır), produced by Netflix Turkey, was a critical and social media sensation, distinguished by its narrative and visual sophistication and its explicit engagement with contemporary social, cultural and political tensions. However, considered in light of larger questions about Netflix and streaming television in general, Ethos also provides a meta-commentary on contradictory aspects of streaming television, particularly those discussed by Ramon Lobato in his book Netflix Nations. In particular, Ethos self-consciously calls attention to ways in which it is simultaneously a local and transnational product. It also invites consideration of the divergent expectations and responses of its varied audiences, both in Turkey and abroad.