SOLA Fajobi is the CEO of Digital Interactive Media, the producers of Next Movie Star and other reality TV shows and soaps across the country. The young man, who had to sell off his cars, landed property and other assets to execute the first edition of The Next Movie Star reality TV show, told ENCOMIUM Weekly recently where integrity and honesty have taken him. The interview conducted at his Iju Road, Lagos office on Tuesday, August 3, 2010, also delved into other issues, including his new reality show on the blog, The Super Mom.
How does it feel to be championing Nigeria’s Next Movie Star for six years now?
It feels great. But it is also part of the challenges that we have to face all the time. At a moment, it feels good that a baby you gave birth to is still out there doing well. But on the other hand, very challenging, making sure that we can survive all the challenges of business in this part of the world. There is power issue, financial issues, there is also the people issues. The people you have to work with and all that.
Aside all that, what has been the recurring challenges you’ve faced over the years?
Every year, you need to look for sponsors. The major challenge is that a lot of companies want to do things on their own, and if you have someone in a position today, in the next two years, the person may no longer be in that position. So, every year you have to do a sponsorship drive to ensure that you get sponsors for the project. So, those are the major challenges that recur all the time. Secondly, is the challenge of quality, because you can’t keep maintaining the same crew all the time. So, for you to get the new guys to conform with the quality standard, it’s always a big challenge also. But we deal with them all the time.
What will you call the high and low points of your business?
The high point is when we get sponsors, finish the audition across all the countries and we select the final housemates and when the show eventually starts and you see it on TV and people are excited. When the winner eventually emerges is also a high point. And the climax is when I present the winners’ prizes to them. The low point is when you are doing production in an environment where you can’t work with well. And you say look, this is my account, these are the things I have done and I need N60 million to pay for TV stations or to handle this production. It’s also a low point when you have to start running around, looking for money everywhere during the production to pay for TV stations because everything is pre-paid in Nigeria. You prepay for equipment, you prepay TV stations and a whole lot of things to make your desired thing happen. But we don’t usually have sponsors who are pre-paying. So, it’s very tasking and challenging.
So, what is your unique selling proposition (USP) that distinguishes Next Movie Star from other TV reality shows?
The Next Movie Stars is not just an idea, it’s unique, being the second ever reality TV show in Nigeria. The first is Gulder Ultimate Search. Next Movie Star itself is unique, it’s measurable. It’s not a reality show where anything counts. It actually starts when the show has ended because the objective of Next Movie Star is to discover, nurture and promote new faces for the movie industry. Secondly it’s to provide excitement for our viewers. And number three is to provide great content and great value for advertisers. So, we try so much to meet up these objectives anywhere that we do it. Now, in the course of doing all of that, you would agree with me that aligning all of them together becomes a challenge.
Six years down the lane, you have produced five movie stars, what has been happening to your beneficiaries over the years?
I’ll rate their performances by saying something very simple, there is no other reality show from this part of the world that has diminished the quality of people we have in the last five years. It’s a fact. We had Tonto Dike and Annie Macaulay in 2005. If you can remember any reality show in 2005, I can name three of our housemates that are doing wonderfully well right now. In 2006, we discovered Portia Yamaha, Kelvin Pam that won Big Brother, Barbara Okojie, Segun Elegbe, Moyo Lawal and a host of them. In 2007, we discovered Ekeno Kamond, one of the leading actresses in Ghana today, Uche Nwachukwu, Martha Nkoma, who was nominated for Best Upcoming Actress for AMAA 2010 and the Nadia who won jointly with Jackie Appiah as the Best Upcoming Actress in AMAA 2010. In 2008, we had Sele, who is doing very well in Liberia, Dickson Lunison, who is an on-air personality and a musician right now, Adams, who also an on-air personality and a few other housemates who are also doing well.
What lessons have you learnt from doing all these things since six years?
Really, I won’t say it has taught me entirely anything new, but it gives fulfillment to get these people to achieve their objectives. One other lesson it taught me is that for you to achieve success, you are on your own. Don’t forget that this is a reality show that has gone on for six years. Any other reality shows that has done two years in this country and I stand to be corrected, must have been driven by brands. GUS is by Gulder, Amstel Malta Box Office by Amstel Malta, Family Dance is Maltina, Street Dance is Malta Guinness, Project Fame is MTN, just name it. But I have done it six years and I am doing it again.
When you started in 2005, you must have agenda, how far have you gone on theat?
If you remember at the first media unveiling in April 2005, at Excellence Hotel, after presentation, I shared with Nigerians that at about 2010, we will be doing The Next Movie Star Africa. In 2007, we went a step towards that. We started international, Nigeria-Ghana. In 2008, we went a bit further, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia. In 2009, we consolidated on the five countries because we have to learn to eat elephant bit by bit. And this year, we are doing ten countries all over Africa.
Aside this, what else does Sola Fajobi do?
I run Digital Interactive Media Limited. We are a content management company. Of course, more people know me with The Next Movie Star, but we produce much more than that. We have Excite on TV, which is bigger than The Next Movie Star, because we watch it in all TV stations all over Nigeria. So, it’s a bigger platform and we’ve been on for over a year now. We also run Groove on TV, which we are about launching in the next one month. And we are also producers of Dormitory 8. It’s a drama series that runs on about 16 stations weekly. We do that because if we are churning out stars at The Next Movie Star, we need to also create platform for them to be exhibited on TV. Apart from that, we have a couple of other drama that we’re launching soon. Aside all that, we just launched another reality TV shows called The Super Mom. My motivation for it is basically to do something different from what people are used to.
We want to celebrate the best mom in Nigeria and my own motive and believe is that mothers are not celebrated enough and they are the prime factor for every home, except there is anybody that drops from the sky. So, I want to do something that as a community we will do together. We will identify icons among the mothers we will have and we will use this to drive the campaign, and that’s what Super Mom is about. We want to give a brand new house, a brand new car, cash prizes and a few other things to the best mom that comes out from the show. All you need do is to send a story about your mom, tell us what your mom has done for you, what makes her unique and what made her the best mom in the world. With the story, we will bring it down to the best hundred, the best hundred will also invite people and we’ll visit the mothers. If the mother is in Akwa Ibom State, we will go there and meet her in her natural ambience, where she loves and we will record everything and package it. Now, the third element on that is, based on the two stories, that’s the mother and the child, we have our winners, who will sit down and write out a short drama from the stories. We now invite the Nollywood genius like Joke Silva and others to act out that drama. So, the episode will basically showcase all of that and viewers will vote for which story touches their heart the most, and would continue to advance the mother until the thirteenth week when we will choose the super mum.
All these require huge sum of money, how have you tackled your financial challenges?
Everybody in this world has financial challenges. The richest economies in the world are USA and China. They are both in debt. Financial challenges is part of our everyday life, but our ability to navigate our way within the murky and rough waters of the economy to still achieve our aims and goals as men. The fulfillment we derive in most of these things is the ability to say I want to do this and I do it. It’s not just about I want to make this money because if it’s about money, I might not be doing this. But it’s the fulfillment I derive from doing it.
In case you don’t get a sponsor for the project, what do you think will happen to the programme?
That has happened to us a couple of times. There had been two editions of The Next Movie Star that we never had sponsors, but we went ahead, and did it. When there are challenges, we convert them into opportunities because when you do anything that is good, one way or the other you will get rewarded for it. For every measure of hard work, there is a measure of reward that comes with it. But I agree with you, there are times we ask ourselves how do we go ahead with this project. Asking that question and you being able to answer it with action, you will get somewhere. For me to do the first edition of The Next Movie Star, I sold my three cars, my landed property and some things. Virtually everything I had, I sold, but I did it. And after that, I got everything back. So, if you are determined to do it, it will turn out well, except you are doing something that does not make sense or people can’t relate with. But if it is something that is unique and refreshing, I tell you one way or the other you will achieve it. One of the books I have read that helped me a lot was Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do.
Has there been any point you almost quit due to one constraint or the other?
There is no time I don’t think of that. It is all the time. Every single time I want to embark on a project, I use to think if I am in the right place, but the achievement that comes with every measurement of hard work you put into it encourages you to say look, I can do it. Anytime any of my programmes comes on air, I get a lot of fulfillment.
In five years, where do we hope to see Digital Interactive Media?
Along the years, I will quit some of them and some younger people will take care of them. From next year, for example, I will not produce The Next Movie Star. People within the office will present it and we won’t have The Next Movie Star Africa. What we are going to do is that it will be for each country. We are franchising to different counties like Ghana, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Liberia, South Africa. So, every year from 2011 to 2013, we will pick The Next Movie Star of that country, from 2014. Then, every five years, there will be The Next Movie Star Africa where all the countries will come back again in one single show because I have realized that the movie industry in some of the countries is a little fragmented and the fact that they are successful in Liberia does not mean you can be known in Nigeria. So, there will be a few collaborations in all these countries.
Who are the people you look up to as a form of motivation?
From the financial aspect, it is Femi Otedola and Mike Adenuga. From my career, it’s Tajuddeen Adepetu who gives me a lot of motivation to want to do a whole lot of things.
What is your business principle?
That would be objectivity and honesty. Aside the two is integrity.
The Super Mom reality TV show, is it designed to be an annual thing?
It is positioned as an annual thing but from the feedback we are getting from some of our sponsors, they want us to do it like twice a year, so let’s see how it goes.
THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN ENCOMIUM WEEKLY ON TUESDAY, AUGUST 10, 2010