Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tinsel gulps N4bn in four years

On May 23, 2013, Nigeria’s longest running soap opera, Tinsel aired its one thousandth episode, a landmark achievement never before accomplished by any other TV soap in Nigeria. Producers of the show MNET Africa celebrated their milestone success by staging a ‘Tinsel 1000th premiere’ event at Eko Hotels and Suites with its cast and a large number of other actors and entertainers attending.
Aside the whole glitz and glamour Tinsel brought out that night, the 1000th episode also marked a record financial feat: during the four years the soap has aired on TV, costs have exceeded a whooping N4bn, yes you read that right. N4,000,000,000. And this, according to Gist, is a conservative estimate.
Tinsel was originally created by acclaimed screenwriter Yinka Ogun (who also created Tajudeen Adepetu‘s ‘Everyday People‘) and produced by the trio of Femi Odugbemi (Content Producer), Jaiye Ojo (Executive Producer) and Lemmy Adebule (Associate Producer).
With its success, Tinsel has surpassed other MNET soaps like Doctors Quarters and Edge of Paradise which both failed to muster a punch on Nigerian Television.

What has made Tinsel’s success so monumental is that it’s ousted any other soap, drama or sitcom that has ever run on Nigerian Television in terms of budget and number of episodes. Older soaps that ran in the 80s and nineties such as ‘Checkmate’, ‘New Masquerade’, ‘Village Headmaster’, ‘Ripples’ ‘Third eye’, ‘Cock Crow at Dawn‘ don’t come close.
The maths is pretty simple, while the older soaps (which we are still fond of by the way) ran weekly, Tinsel runs five days a week, about 260 days a year, over four times what a 52-week soap would achieve in a year. And of course spending a huge budget to achieve this…
The soap also runs on terrestrial TV in Nigeria, making it accessible to over 100m Nigerians. (Something MNET failed to achieve with the now defunct talent show Naija Sings, which only ran on cable TV).
Experts said that Tinsel’s production cost per minute is $900. The end result of 24 minutes of excitement viewers cuddle up on their couches to watch every evening totals to about $21,600. (N3.4m). It’s however a far difference from another MNET Africa production, the South African Soap ‘Jacob’s Cross‘ which cost about $2000 per minute to shoot (Jacob’s Cross ran for seven seasons, ending in November 2012).

Falling into the category of the old time Nigerian drama-soaps series e.g: New Masquerade, Village Headmaster, Tinsel is the first studio shoot in modern history, while a lot of other soaps in the 2000s have been shot in apartments. Of course the cost of renting a studio would fall in the millions not to talk about maintenance costs. MNET until March 2013 were making use of popular Philips studio located in Ojota, Lagos. In early March, the most part of studio was gutted in a fire mishap.
Since then, producers have spent much more money shooting around town – in two locations situated in the Ikeja environ – at a private home in G.R.A and a studio in Oba Akran both in Lagos. Sources say MNET is currently building a massive studio in G.R.A, Ikeja.
The salary structure for regular cast, insiders tell us is N10,000 per day. ‘Episodes are shot concurrently, that’s why we work every day‘, a staff at Tinsel says. With a total of 11 major cast members and an average of 60 recurring day players, accountants will be scheduling a huge amount of staff take home pay every month ending.
Tinsel’s staff structure is pretty much simple – every department (e.g Set, lights, props, costuming, hair and makeup, visuals etc) has their Heads (H.O.Ds) and assistants followed by other subordinates. Staff get paid monthly, so do full time actors.

Tinsel has been responsible for a breath of fresh air into the Nigerian acting scene, many pundits say.
The soap is responsible for the birth of many young and fast rising Nigerian and Ghanaian stars like former Big Brother Nigeria contestant Gideon Okeke, Linda Ejiofor, Tomi Odunsi, Damilola Adegbite, Matilda Obaseki, Gbenro Ajibade, Osas Ighodaro, Chris Attoh and others. Arguably, these starlets wouldn’t be shining right now if not for the 30 minute soap.
I feel like it’s a dream come true and I’m proud to be part of history‘, Gbenro Ajibade who plays ‘Soji‘ says about Tinsel hitting its 1000th episode. Ajibade is one of the first and main casts of the soap. Another actor Bolanle Okhiria who plays less regular role ‘Zaza’ also adds ‘It’s the most entertaining soap in Nigeria. They’ve helped a lot of upcoming actors’.
The young cast however play a double edge sword role with the more matured cast like Victor Olaotan, Ireti Doyle, Funlola Aofiyebi, and Kunle Coker.

We can’t overlook the huge sum of money put into publicity and marketing – after all the daily soap runs in 45 different countries spread across Africa. Talk about the huge billboard signs, advert spaces on primetime TV, online adverts and more. Other major expenses go into other vital aspects like Costuming, hair and makeup and many more.
In spite of the staggering amount of money put into Tinsel, the soap opera’s influence is highly debatable; it has taken four good years to get some traction and some would still argue that  its appeal falls within the ‘elitist’ class.
The mass audiences are still warming up to the soap unlike the old soaps (Village Headmaster, Checkmate, Super Story) which gathered a cult following almost immediately. So has it been really worth all that money?
Perhaps MNET should look at creating other soap operas truly catching the massive audience and stirring up reactions with true social values.

 Credit: NET NG

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