In the terrain where fickle music business and prosaic broadcast business intersect, MTV Base’s legacy of excellence can be attributed to a single feature: uncompromising focus on quality content. From the moment the channel made its first broadcast of Innocent ‘2Face’ Idibia’s “African Queen” on DSTV Channel 88 to the redefining era brought about by MTV Africa Music Award (MAMA), and now to the present day, MTV Base Africa has been unmistakable about its mission: “showcasing Africa to the world” in its most authentic form. From the “self-imposed quota of 30% African music” at inception in 2005, today the 24-hour music television and general entertainment channel has grown exponentially in contents and viewership, reaching more than 180 million viewers in about 50 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Birthing the vision
Armed with ‘just’ determination to succeed and sterling academic records after a string of scholarly exploits in the United States of America, Alex Okosi, Managing Director of MTV Networks Africa, then a young graduate was able to secure a high profile placement with Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN), owners of MTV Networks International. His rise to the Viacom’s top echelon afforded him the influence and opportunity to propose the MTV Base Africa. The channel, according to Okosi, was not only going to project positive view of Africa, it was also to promote Africa’s diverse music scene and vibrant youth culture.
“As a young person who has grown up on both sides of the world, there were a lot of times you weren’t proud to be an African because the only images you saw were of dying and starving people. I just focused on the fact that there’s this great opportunity to do something that I believe would enable us and our youth culture to be projected in the most different way,” Okosi reasoned.
Television business is not one venture to be founded on optimism and passion only; empirical data on the size of African advertising market and a working system have pivotal roles to play in its sustenance and success. These were not available as Okosi had to convince VIMN leadership with unflinching persuasion and a business plan laced with figures and facts gathered through his networks in Africa. “It’s always difficult when you are sitting behind a desk trying to find data on Africa; it doesn’t exist.”
After some initial hesitancy and ambivalence, VIMN agreed to flow with Okosi’s conviction more on the need to complete the MTV global picture since every region of the world but Africa had MTV presence; though, Okosi’s proposal made sense to its employers from the creative and growth standpoints. Eventually, Okosi scaled the approval hurdle; and behold, MTV Base Africa was birthed.