Netflix has announced a new partnership with owner of Ebony Life TV, Mo Abudu, to bring two of Nigeria’s literary classics from book to screen. Multiple branded films and a series have also been licensed to the streaming service.
Among the highlights will be a film adaptation of “Death and the King’s Horseman,” a play by Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, and a series based on Lola Shoneyin’s best-selling debut novel, “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.” One of the unnamed projects will premiere on the platform in 2020. Further details about the rest of the EbonyLife slate will be revealed at a later date.
Since becoming a household name in the 2000s with her daytime talk show “Moments With Mo,” Abudu has risen to become one of the most trusted names in Nigerian entertainment. After launching EbonyLife as an upscale TV network in 2012, she moved into feature film production with slickly produced titles like “The Wedding Party,” a glitzy romcom that shattered local B.O. records to become the most successful Nigerian film of all time. The three highest-grossing Nigerian movies are all EbonyLife productions.
In 2018, EbonyLife struck a three-series deal with Sony Pictures Television, with the first project set to tell the story of the female warriors of the ancient West African kingdom of Dahomey.
“As a Nigerian storyteller, my biggest motivator has always been to tell authentic and untold stories that resonate with every person, regardless of where they’re from in the world while showcasing our culture, heritage and creativity,” says Abudu. “This unprecedented partnership is testament to Netflix’s investment in African storytelling.”
“Mo is at the forefront of creative storytelling in African television,” says Dorothy Ghettuba, Netflix’s head of African Originals. “Her passion for creating high-quality, riveting multi-genre films and TV shows that capture the imagination while showcasing the diversity and richness of Nigerian culture is evident in her impressive body of work.”
It’s been a banner year for the Los Gatos-based streaming service’s African expansion. Earlier this year, Netflix dropped its first African original, “Queen Sono,” a South African spy series starring Pearl Thusi (“Quantico”), as well as the South African teen drama “Blood & Water,” which quickly climbed the streamer’s top 10 daily rankings across the globe, including the U.S. and the U.K. It also announced its first Nigerian original, an untitled sci-fi drama series helmed by veteran director Akin Omotoso (“Vaya”).
“We believe that more people deserve to see their lives reflected on screen and for that to happen, we need to make sure there’s a wide variety of content that caters to our members’ diverse tastes,” says Ben Amadasun, Netflix’s director of licensing and co-productions for Africa.