In what may turn out to be a significant coup for the South African film and television industry, as well as entertainment consumers, the global streaming behemoth network, Netflix, has put out a call for original content that is unique to the region.
According to MyBroadband, Netflix plans to fund South African films and series that tell the stories that are at the heart of a nation with an embattled, dynamic history. But the opportunity will not only be aimed at local audiences, as it will be showcased to the network's viewers worldwide. For South African storytellers, this is a tremendous opportunity.
At the helm of Netflix's European, Middle Eastern, and African (EMEA) branch is Yann Lafargue, who is very enthusiastic about including South Africa in its future programming.
"There are great stories to be told here. It's just the question of finding the right story."Known for their stringent anti-censorship policies, Netflix has been providing their subscribers with endless original content produced by the streaming network's in-house content producers. Since its inception in 1997, Netflix has continued to claim its spot amongst media giants, initially only offering an on-demand DVD service by mailing disks to subscribers, and the company expanded into an online streaming service in 2007.
But it was in 2013 when Netflix underwent arguably its most crucial expansion as it ventured into film and television production. Since then, the network has consistently brought high-quality original productions into the lounges of subscribers around the world under the banner of Netflix Originals. Such content is produced, co-produced, or distributed by Netflix exclusively on their services.
Moreover, unlike conventional networks, Netflix funds its original shows by providing the budgets upfront and immediately ordering two seasons of most series.
Successful titles include enormous successes such as House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Sense8, The OA, Grace and Frankie, Bloodline, Stranger Things, and Narcos. Netflix managed to sign up the fourth season of Arrested Development, which initially aired on Fox.
In November 2013, Netflix and Marvel Television announced a five-season collaboration to produce a series of Marvel superhero-focused shows, such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage.
Netflix has also produced a vast collection of stand-up comedy specials from such notable comedians as Dave Chappelle, Louis C.K., Chris Rock, Jim Gaffigan, Bill Burr, and Jerry Seinfeld.
South African storytellers will undoubtedly be in good company. Considering that earlier this month Netflix announced intentions to have at least half of its library consist of original content by 2019. In pursuit of this goal, the network plans to invest $8 billion in original material in 2018. Excellent news for South African creatives who often struggle to secure funding for their projects in a small and cliquey local industry.
Netflix's Lafargue explained that the network has an acquisition team that will be traveling around South Africa looking for storytellers that show promise. He adds that some creatives pitch completed scripts, others have concepts that have great potential.
Whatever the approach, Lafargue encourages South African creators to find themselves an agent that can package their ideas in a way that is accessible and interesting.
Netflix recently announced that its original streaming programming cost a whopping $8.5 billion in the past 12 months, a figure that has more than doubled in two years.
Nevertheless, Netflix investor confidence has been soaring on Wall Street, an indication they won't be short of operating revenue in the near future.
[Featured Image by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images]