An “African version” of Disney’s hit Desperate Housewives will be heading to Nigeria by summer 2014. And one of the people bringing it to African television has been dubbed Africa’s Oprah. But Mo Abudu is a smart media mogul in her own right.
Her Nigeria-based EbonyLife TV, launched last year and with no connection to Ebony magazine, inked the co-production deal and will air the African version of Desperate Housewives in 44 countries across the continent, reports Indie Wire. EbonyLife TV is a multi-platform broadcaster and subsidiary of Media and Entertainment City Africa (MEC Africa).
With a hit talk show and her own network, Adubu is definitely on the Oprah Winfrey track. Launched in 2006 on South Africa’s subscription-funded TV network M-Net, Abudu’s talk show, Moments with Mo, is considered Africa’s first syndicated daily talk show on regional television. But it is also seen worldwide. Moments with Mo airs in 48 African countries, and is currently also airing on cable TV globally. The show has been a mega hit, with even former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appearing as a guest.
A 24-hour channel, EbonyLife, plans to focus on providing a more compete picture of the lives Africans. Abudu is the first woman in Africa to own a Pan African channel.
Today the channel now employs 130 people but it was a struggle to get the industry to take a local channel seriously. “Well, it’s been a long climb and things don’t happen over night,” says Abudu, EbonyLife CEO and executive chairman, in a Smart Monkey TV interview at Africa’s broadcast industry conference DISCOP 2013.
Before entering the media sector, Abudu worked in oil and gas and even the hotel business. In fact, she is a serial entrepreneur. “One key takeaway for anyone is to never try to do everything yourself. Always look for partners. It is better to own 5 to 10 percent of something than 100 percent of a great idea that never happens,” says Abudu, who is 50 years old.
Abudu was born in England and lived there most of her life. And it was through this experience that the idea of her talk show first came about. “I found I myself always being asked the most ridiculous questions–about where I came from, what I ate, did we dance around fire…You always to try to find a way to deal with that and knock the nail on the head and I felt one of the most important things to do would be to do a talk show that would traveled.”
But when she approached Nigerian stations, they pointed to the fact that they already carried the Oprah and Tyra Banks shows. But Abudu persisted. Finally after four pilots she was given airtime but she had to find her own sponsors.
Now after making her talk show a success, she is looking to do the same with EbonyLife TV. She had already licensed content from Disney, but Abudu dreamed of taking one of Disney’s formats and inserting African content. “We talked to Walt Disney for months on end. And what were are basically doing is taking that format [Desperate Housewives] and localizing it,” Abudu explains. “This was one of the most top-selling, award-winning series in America, so let’s take it and… make it our own.”