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Meet the entrepreneurs who sold their sitcom across Africa

FOUNDERS: Debra Odutuyo and Andrew Osayemi

IN 2010, Debra Odutuyo sold her car and moved back in with her parents and Andrew Osayemi left his investment banking career to embark on their entrepreneurial dream. They joined forces to launch an independent TV production company called MTA Productions to produce a comedy TV show, Meet The Adebanjos about African parents trying to raise their British kids in London. Eager to achieve a major TV deal, they pitched the show to mainstream media outlets but to no avail.

“After months of feeling sorry for myself, a successful business friend pulled me aside and asked: 'Why do you actually want to get a deal with a mainstream UK broadcaster?' I said because I want to prove it’s possible to get a black show on TV.

"He replied: 'It’s your ego talking. You’re too focused on the bright lights, the glitz, glamour and adoration from your friends. You should find a market who want to buy your content”. And he was absolutely right,” said Osayemi.

Andrew and Debra took that advice and within seven years of launching their production company they have been able to find a way to sell their TV show all over the world generating enough revenue to make three seasons and 50 episodes without a major mainstream broadcaster.

To celebrate reaching 50 episodes, Debra and Andrew have devised a five step plan on how to succeed in the creative industry without mainstream support for creatives who have been struggling to achieve results in the industry. They believe that all creatives can and should follow their dreams and make a success of their work without traditional mainstream validation.

Here are their five steps to success in the TV business without mainstream support:

1. Understand your audience: Make very good niche content where you can easily find a community online to help you promote it: We made our show Meet the Adebanjos’ about Africans living aboard because we knew there was as large audience of people living in the diaspora who could connect. You could do the same by doing a show for gamers, single dads, women trying to lose weight etc.

2. Find funding: Beg, borrow (but don’t steal!) money from friends and family to raise cash to make a pilot episode/pilot season. Undertake a crowdfunding campaign to source funds. Take your time developing the show concept so that the script is amazing and then make the show for as cheap as possible without compromising on quality.

Debra sold her car and moved back with her parents in order to make the first pilot of Meet the Adebanjos’. Andrew quit his city trading job and convinced many of his friends to invest in the first season so we could make it independently. We worked with script editors and writers who had worked on the popular British sitcom Desmond’s to help get the scripts right before producing them.


PICTURED: Meet The Adebanjos

3. Invest in marketing: Focus on promoting and marketing the first episode/season rather than making money from it. You want as many people to see it as possible. Have a budget for marketing and promoting. Andrew took the gamble of not focusing on generating revenue straight away but instead wanted the first season to be watched by as many people as possible. We printed posters all over the UK telling people to watch the first episodes online, did deals with African TV stations to air the first season for free and emailed every journalist we knew to cover the story.

4. Get selling: Work on your sells pitch. You can fund your future seasons by preselling your future shows to broadcasters/publications/advertisers focused on your niche audience. Andrew says once your show has been able to generate a lot of buzz you will start getting a lot of interested from niche broadcasters, online platforms, media platforms, advertisers who think their audience will love your content.

5. Learn from failure: Even if all fails and you do not get a TV deal you will have generated so much buzz about your work and what you do that many opportunities will come your way so it will still be a win. You can’t lose. From the back of launching Meet the Adebanjos, we had opportunities beyond our wildest dreams. From consultancy all over the world to being invited to speak at the UN our message is simple: If you do great work and it makes a big buzz it will lead to things bigger and better than you think is possible even if your initial goal is not achieved.

This dynamic duo have bucked the trend and proven that it is possible to achieve media success without the reliance on traditional mainstream channels.

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