Valuing Africa’s creativity: an interview with Kenyan TV entrepreneur Dorothy Ghettuba

Author:Catherine Jewell
Position::Communications Division, WIPO
SUMMARY

Spielworks Media is one of a number of television and digital media companies that are springing up and thriving in Kenya’s vibrant media sector. Its founder and CEO, Dorothy Ghettuba explains why copyright is so critical to the long-term viability of her business.

 
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Spielworks Media, a Nairobi-based television and digital media company, is one of a growing number of content production companies that are springing up and thriving in Kenya’s vibrant media sector. In 2008, with little more than her passion for creativity, her drive and determination, the company’s founder and CEO, Dorothy Ghettuba, returned to her native Kenya from Canada to follow her dream of becoming a TV entrepreneur who celebrates Africa’s story-telling tradition.

To date, Spielworks Media has produced some 20 TV shows and employs 17 staff, though the number can swell to 700 depending on the creative project at hand. In this interview Ms. Ghettuba shares her experiences and aspirations and explains why copyright is critical to the long-term viability of her business.

How did you get involved in television?

I have always been a creative person and loved theatre, drama and dancing at school. I soon realized that regular office work was not for me. I was restless. Creative people are always restless. During a holiday in Kenya, I saw a creative opportunity that made business sense. So I returned to Canada, packed my bags and came back home to become a TV entrepreneur producing content with an African aesthetic.

What challenges did you face?

I arrived in Kenya with stars in my eyes and high hopes of starting a production company, producing and selling shows and making lots of money. I quickly sobered up. Raising the working capital to produce content continues to be a huge challenge. I can draw on my background in finance and my creativity, but it is tough. If a TV network gives me money in advance to create a show they will claim the rights in it and we will barely cover our production costs. So at Spielworks Media we borrow money from the bank. The good news is that we are now starting to make money and are beginning to finance our own shows.

Why is copyright important for your business?

There is no money in production. The only way to be profitable is through syndication, selling and re-selling our shows to multiple broadcasters. I dream of the day I will be able to sell one of our shows to 100 channels on a non-exclusive basis at the same time. This means retaining the intellectual property (IP) rights in our shows. I found that in Kenya broadcasters would buy all the rights to a show in perpetuity. This just didn’t make sense nor was it an option for Spielworks Media. We would not and could not give away our IP for a...

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