Africa: Nigerian cinemas count loses over COVID-19 lockdown as streaming sites thrive


Prior to the lockdown in Lagos, Africa’s most populous city, the public restraining from general spaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a revenue decline in the Nigerian cinema industry.

Information released by the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN) showed that cinemas across Nigeria have been losing as much as 30 percent of their weekend revenues since January.

Giving a breakdown of the decline, Nigerian cinemas grossed N75.9 million between January 17 to 19 2020. However, the figure dropped by 20.8 percent (N60.1 million) by the first weekend of February. With reports of multiple cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, the figures dwindled further to N54.9 million and as of the second weekend in March, stood at N45,283,647 million.

By the third week in March, the Coronavirus pandemic which had already taken its toll on the cinema industry forced outlets to shut down as both federal and state governments released curfews and lockdown protocols. Similarly, cinema distributors are experiencing great loss during this period as movies scheduled to premiere have been cancelled with no patronage or profit.

At a time when traditional cinemas and movie houses are at a loss, online streaming sites like Netflix are however profiting. Owing to the global lockdown with emphasis on social-distancing and self-isolation, countries with high cases of COVID-19 like the United States have seen an increase in the consumption of Netflix as well as a rise in subscription.

Although challenges that accompany lockdowns such as intense internet traffic are inevitable, global big tech platforms have developed strategies to keep their services up and running amid surging demand. “Given the crisis, we’ve developed a way to reduce Netflix’s traffic on telecommunications networks by 25 percent while also maintaining the quality of our service,” Netflix Vice-President of Content Delivery Ken Florance said.

Ken Florance stated that consumers “will continue to get the quality that comes with their plan – whether it’s Ultra-High, High or Standard Definition.” It is also expected that the company will provide significant relief to the congested network which would be deployed to African countries before the end of April 2020. Widening its reach during this global lockdown, Netflix has also gained a significant number of new subscribers from the African region.

Even though increased viewership does not translate to any immediate financial benefit for Netflix as it relies on its fixed monthly subscription revenue, it will make the streaming site a house-hold name and may mitigate long-term churn rates.

Notwithstanding, Nigerian cinemas across the country are advised not to write themselves up but to initiate a more creative way of engaging its audience. A precise online platform for the period of the COVID-19 pandemic should be created. The latest movies or blockbusters can be released on the site with an affordable payment module per watch.

In a period like such as this where self-isolating is mandatory to curb further spread of the coronavirus, Nigerian cinemas ought to capitalize on the internet and devise several operation templates to avoid additional revenue decline.


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