Spielworks Media in a changing, digital world

Dorothy Ghettuba has a shiny, ‘many inches’ slab of black glass, plastic and electronic wizardly mounted on her wall. It’s state of the art, designed to project 3D images that wow and inspire.
It also hasn’t been turned on for four months, which is pretty odd as it is in perfect working order. It is probably stranger still when you learn that Dorothy runs Spielworks Media, the production house behind many of Kenya’s more successful TV shows such as Lies that Bind, Saints and Higher Learning.

We sat down with Dorothy to discuss how the TV hiatus came about.

Thanks for sitting with us. Why don’t you briefly introduce yourself and say what it is that you do
(Laughs) Ok. I’m Dorothy Ghettuba. I run Spielworks Media. We started out primarily as a TV media production company but with time have pivoted to play with the best in digital spaces. We produce all kinds of content: dramas, telenovelas, talk shows, web series, documentaries and mobisodes. We have been doing this for over seven years and we keep learning new things every single day.

Wow. So could we call you a TV producer in a nutshell?
No! We do so much more than TV production. There are films, too, and we have also developed our own media platforms. I’m not sure there’s a label that quite captures all that I’m currently doing.


Dorothy Ghettuba - www.spielworksmedia.com
Dorothy Ghettuba, CEO, Spielworks Media, Photo Credits, Spielworks Media

What’s your philosophy around content and its production?
When I asked my folks if I could go to film school, their initial reaction was , “What?! Are you crazy?” I want to contribute to this media industry such that any kids asking their folks now to go into film school would get a resounding “Yes! Absolutely!” It should be just as natural a career as medicine, engineering or accounting.

These are very exciting times for content development and production. I find that the mix of creativity and technology is unstoppable. Spielworks’ primary goal in this space is to make creativity profitable. We aim to create 1 million jobs and opportunities by 2030.

Make creativity profitable. That’s an awesome goal. How do you go about achieving this?
We have the tools, networks and platforms to help all budding creatives actualize their creations profitably. One such platform is Ngoma TV (http://ngoma.tv), our Free Video on Demand (FVoD) space for African music content. We have some exciting additions to this coming up real soon. We can’t wait to share them with everyone.

What are your thoughts on the legislation that requires local broadcasting houses carry 40% local content?
I feel this approach is akin to legislating change. It’s a good idea. I think the folks in government and the private sector have the right idea though it doesn’t really address some of the key challenges faced in the creation of local content.

Tell us a little more about these challenges
You see, good content is expensive to produce. The traditional media last year collectively experienced 1.5 billion shillings reduction in revenue. The budgets to produce good content largely don’t exist and depend heavily on advertising revenue. Advertisers go where the eyeballs are, and most eyeballs have moved onto digital platforms. Low budgets for production compromise not only the quality of the final product but the aesthetics as well.

We noticed a surge of content producers such as The Nest with “Tuko Macho” opting to go the digital route first, in many cases completely eschewing the traditional media channels. What are your thoughts on this?
*Points to nearby Game of Thrones billboard* See that? They are announcing the launch of a series that most of their Nairobi audience have already seen. Winter already came! That’s the new reality. I feel the direction content producers are taking is absolutely the way to go. You know ‘Jamo Yule Msee?’ He started sharing his content on Social Media platforms and now you see him prominently on KCB billboards. The Nest are able to get feedback in real-time on every new episode they release to their public which is great for the production. Content is pretty democratic now.

Sounds like the future!
Nope. Not at all. That’s actually the present. Linear TV, what you call traditional media, is the new fireplace. It’s a spot for people to congregate around and share an experience, like live reality shows. Already there’s a producer working on a series that will be broadcast on SnapChat. Each episode disappears after broadcast. The NFL has signed an agreement with Twitter to have their games live cast on that platform. The times have already changed.

This is a brave new world indeed. How does Node Africa fit into this picture? *Makes picture frame with hands*
(Laughs) Node Africa is an essential part of our pretty picture. In a nutshell, Node takes away my headache. They currently provide the streaming services that power Ngoma.Tv as well as secure backup and storage for most of our content.

Nice! Any parting shots for the budding content creators out there?
Well, I think it was Einstein who said “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” I’ve been having a whole lot of fun thus far. Platforms are an essential part of the content value chain and Spielworks is working to develop and grow our own African platforms. Africa has lots of stories that need telling and my mission is to provide the platforms (both tech and equipment) that enable this to happen. I have lots of faith in the millennials. The median age of the Ngoma TV team is 24! My job is to get them the tools and resources they need and then speedily get out of their way. This approach has led to Spielworks accumulating over 100 pieces of intellectual property over the last 7 years. We have some plans on sharing this content with the world soon. Watch this space!