This week, as part of Beneath the Surface, we set out to find the size of the internet video economy and the first thing we have done is to identify the most popular content creators; those that have had some significant success being Internet First Creators.
We’re using that description to differentiate them from video content creators whose shows are designed for regular TV (Let’s call them TV first creators) and to also separate them from production process heavy type players like Nafuna TV, C-Media, Invision Studios and others.
We did not include aggregation type outfits as some, like Zvirikufaya naKeda and Nehanda TV. We will cover them separately as they have a very different type of business.
Initially part of a show just called P.O. Box, Reloaded’s two stars Admire Kuzhangaira (Bhutisi) and Rolland Lunga (Boss Kedha), along with Luckie Aaron (Now with Bustop TV) are credited for putting in motion Zimbabwe’s internet comedy video skits business.
Their first skit published in November 2014 went viral on Facebook and especially on WhatsApp, quickly establishing the two comedians as household names in the country. Just a month later, the team attracted sponsorship and would often post sponsored kits establishing this as the dominant business model for internet video in Zimbabwe.
P.O. Box Reloaded currently has a total of 17,000 followers (FB and YouTube) and get an average of 19,000 views on YouTube and 15,000 on Facebook. A bit of a surprise as initially our assumption was that Facebook views would be significantly higher.
This name is synonymous with short comedic skits and monologues with a Diasporan theme performed by the eponymous character who has the catchphrase “Kuripwa Kugara”. Behind the videos, is a coordinated effort between Baba Tencen himself and Tendai Sean Joe, whom we have written about here before.
Baba Tencen’s page followers on Facebook have grown rapidly to about 40,000 in just 3 months amassing a total 1.3 million total video views on Facebook alone and some 250,000 views on YouTube.
His videos get an average of 30,000 views on Facebook making him the most viewed Zimbabwean comedian on Facebook. The Baba Tencen business model is both sponsored content (this video for example), appearances at events and Kuripwa Kugara branded merchandise.
3. Bustop TV (former P.O. Box)
Bustop TV just rebranded from P.O. Box TV to avoid the confusion of brands with P.o. Box Reloaded).
Produced by Luckie Aaron, the internet video startup posts comedy skits regularly to both Facebook and YouTube. Bustop TV features Prosper Ngomashi (popularly known as the Comic Pastor), Sharon Chideu (as Maggie) and Samantha Kureya (as Gonyeti).
The trio has struck a chord with a large enough audience that has created opportunities for traditional and native advertising, brand placement and live appearances.
Combined, they have 48,000 followers on YouTube and Facebook. Their videos average about 16,000 views on Facebook and 15,000 on YouTube. In the past 3 months, however, they have registered more views on YouTube (418,000) than Facebook (291,000).
Bustop TV recently announced they’ll be starting an animation series that features the 3 characters in the skits.
4. Prosper Ngomashi (The Comic Pastor)
Probably one Zimbabwe’s most popular comedians at the moment, Ngomashi rose to fame in November 2015 when his video “Shamhu” went viral on WhatsApp and Facebook.
Shortly after that, he started appearing in P.O. Box comedy skits. He, however, continued posting his solo work which usually features an off-screen interview who asks him a question.
Before his breakout Shamhu video, Ngomashi had actually been posting such videos on Facebook for months.
Though just posting his solo videos just once a month if at all, when he does Ngomashi gets an average 40,000 views per video on Facebook. This, of course, doesn’t take into account those shares on WhatsApp whose usage in the country far exceeds that of Facebook.
5. Zambezi News
As far as satire on Zimbabwean issues goes, the name Zambezi News requires no introduction locally. Its team built a following by sharing its humourous take on usually on Zimbabwean politics and the NGO economy using via a satire news show, songs, and other formats.
Though their content is targeted at an Internet audience, Zambezi News have managed to secure a spot on MultiChoice’s satellite pay TV channel, Zambezi Magic (the similarity in name is coincidental).
Zambezi News haven’t posted much fresh content in the past three months or so, probably because of their other Magamba Network projects that Zambezi news is part of.
6. Wershuta (pronounced We are Shuta)
Wershuta impress with their easy flowing on-screen chemistry so much you want this to be their full-time job, coz it’s not. Their content makes for some very refreshing Zim content on YouTube.
Going by the names and Muera Shumba (real name Otni) and Muera Beta (Ruvimbo) , hence Shut-ta, the two ladies have built a sizeable following posting funny skits to YouTube.
Their comedy ranges from funny for the sake of it to humourous takes on serious issues like Cyberbullying and sex education, all targeted at Zimbabweans but with a diaspora slant (they live in Canada).
With views of as much as 20,000 for some skits, their audience is also growing. The interesting thing is that Wershuta don’t post natively to Facebook – just links to their YouTube videos.
Though we’re not sure, we believe that this could be limiting the growth of the Zimbabwe-based audience since YouTube is not offered as a bundled service by the operators.
We just feel for the quality of content they provide their followers – 2,300 at the moment – and average video views – 4,000 per video in the past 3 months – their numbers should be 10x in the 8 or so months they have been at it.
Business model wise, it feels Wershuta hasn’t made the crossover yet from hobby to career in this and it’s not clear how they intend to but with this kind of content, one wishes that they do.
7. The BYO Show
The only animated show in this list, The BYO show takes a humourous awareness approach to serious subjects like child trafficking and cyber bullying with the support of NGOs like Radio Dialogue. Like the other video startups, their business model is sponsored content.
Main platform of publishing is Facebook where they get an average 9,000 views per video (first quarter 2016). Posting frequency is one video a week or every other week.
First, unlike everyone else listed here, his social media presence is not for commercial or hobby reasons. it is for religious reasons, so it didn’t feel quite right including him in an “Internet Video Economy” article.
We included him because he demonstrates two things: that to build an audience and influence doesn’t mean you have to target Zimbabweans only, and that chasing passion is the way to build influence and authority. So, briefly:
He’s the most followed Zimbabwean on Social Media. On Facebook, he’s followed by more than 1.5 million people, on Twitter more than 760,000, and most importantly for the sake of this article, on YouTube 146,000 subscribers.
Audience Size Comparison
Videos posted Over in 2016 Q1
Total video views in 2016 Q1
We didn’t include other creators who, because they don’t post that frequently or for other reasons, haven’t built a large following yet and don’t have a lot of views yet.
We tried to be as exhaustive as possible. In the case that we missed a Zimbabwean video creator that is active and is getting comparably significant numbers, or if we just didn’t mention something about these numbers that you’re curious about (or know about), please let us know in the comments.
We’d love to update this article so that it’s as useful as possible to those that need to understand this fledgling industry more.
Check back for the list of platforms and video aggregators to be posted in the coming days. Or just check out this problem of piracy and freeloading we are learning more about as we research this topic.