5 takeaways from the incredible, unbelievable, unprecedented success of #TheVoiceNigeria

A'rese The Voice YNaija

by Chi Ibe

Yesterday, The Voice Nigeria finally came to an end – A’rese Emokpae announced the winner of the first edition. The show that became a virus sweeping through Nigeria, capturing audiences old and young, congregating conversations across Twitter and campus dining halls. It was like nothing Nigeria had seen since, perhaps, the first edition of Big Brother Africa and maybe Idols West Africa.
While we are still hung-over from all that excitement, and A’rese’s final performance to kill all performances, let’s not forget the most important things we’ve learnt from three months of premium entertainment.
Here are 5 takeaways…

1.    Forget all that BS about ‘saturated market’ and ‘dis-intermediated audience’, if the content is good, Nigerians will watch

If you listen to content owners tell you why their content isn’t going viral, you hear all kinds of excuses: ‘Nigerians don’t watch quality content (WHAT?!)’, ‘There are too many reality shows in the market now’, ‘Social media has made it difficult for shows to trend’, ‘Young people no longer watch television on the screens’, ‘There are so many stations and short attention spans, people won’t focus on one show’. Bla bla bla bla bla. The Voice Nigeria came and blew all those excuses through the roof. Smashing expectations, retooling assumptions. Very clearly, if it’s great content, no matter what the market is or where the audience is, like Liam Neeson, they will find you, and they will watch you!

2.    Nigerians love good quality – even if it’s shot in South Africa

Not more than a week after the show became an official hit amongst audiences, the news began to leak: the Nigerian version of the global franchise was being shot (drum roll)… in South Africa! As in, the entire cast and crew was based in South Africa. All contestants and their parents, the judges, and the audience were all either flown to and selected from South Africa. What a blow to our already fragile egos. Industry heads made it clear – it was cheaper to shoot a well-produced show to meet the global format in a country with proper live recording studios, production ethic, and producers who know how to show up for work on that. It’s almost a recipe for disaster in a country that sent Ghanaians packing for stealing our jobs or whatever barely 30 years ago. But Nigerians didn’t care. It didn’t matter. Give us a good show, focused on Nigerians, making Nigerians stars and just like all of Nigeria’s music posse, we will consume and we will even be grateful for the thoughtfulness.
#TheVoiceNigeria YNaija

3.    Authentic always, always, always work

Waje? Authentic. 2face? Down to earth. Timi Dakolo? Authentic toh bad. The first thing that hit you about The Voice Nigeria was how thoroughly, maybe even vehemently authentic the judges were. Their emotions were real; the language was unscripted because the producers obviously trusted the hearts and voices of the judges, the show had real soul. It wasn’t even the forced camaraderie we saw (which nonetheless worked) with Dede Mabiaku and his gang on Idols West Africa, this was a rich textured, flavoured tit for tat among all 4 judges, with the contestants, with the presenters. All forced barriers that make Nigerian TV content unbearable including false accents, a lack of confidence in our reflexes and just a refusal to EFFING BE OURSELVES were demolished. By a South African production team no less, if you need us to rub it in. Will content producers please pay attention?

4.    Patoranking struggles with the English language (quite BAAAAADLY), but who the heck cares?

The very first day we saw him on the show, we began to feel sorry for him. His struggles with the English language were real. It looked like punishment – why did they have to do this to this sweet, well-behaved (only Kiss Daniel comes close), incredibly likeable music star? Everyone loves Patoranking, no? But it was a risk worth taking. He struggled through the language and managed to wrestle it. From a relative inferiority in his interaction with his co-judges, he grew into own, he took risks with his team, he finally began to give as good as he got, and he left the show with a much enhanced stature than when he got in. It appears all of this comes from a willingness to learn, to get better, to be better. Or maybe it’s nothing of those. He was just good television. Whatever happened, Up Pato.

5.    Sponsorship still make a lot of sense

Brands these days are pushing away a lot of spend from third party sponsorship – because of bad numbers, lack of customer growth we have to assume etc. People need to stop blaming others for their bad decisions. Airtel, usually the bastion of bad decisions, finally made a good decision and took their time (or so it appears) to invest in a show that works for everybody. If this is the one singular buy they make this year, they have made a solid investment. And others need to pay attention. It’s not sponsorships that are failing, it’s the bad choices made by sponsorship managers that are failing. When they make good calls and good judgements, miracles like The Voice Nigeria are what happen. And everybody lives happily ever after.
And a bonus 6: Reality TV is here to stay.
You would have thought that this new television format would fizzle out after the initial excitement, especially since Nigerians don’t, as of today, have a reality culture that has produced a high turnover of enduring stars, and our TV doesn’t yet have enough reality content to make it an attractive proposition. But no matter, The Voice shows that there is an audience, and there is a market, and the potential is huge. So bring on content that connects, people! BRING. IT. ON!

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