IGF 2021 Lightning Talk #53 - Local Audiovisual Content for Local Cultures - What Role for the Internet? A Discussion with Sarah Migwi, Co-founder & Managing Director, Protel Studios Ltd, Nairobi, Kenya

Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (17:00 UTC) - Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (17:30 UTC)
Conference Room 1+2

International Federation of Film Producers Associations [FIAPF]
This Lightning Talk is organised jointly by:

Bertrand Moullier, Senior Advisor International Affairs, International Federation of Film Producers Associations [FIAPF], WEOG, Private Sector Dana Pohl, Head of Projects, Polish Producers Alliance [KIPA], WEOG, Private Sector


Mrs Sarah Migwi, Co-founder & Managing Director, Protel Studios Ltd, Nairobi, Kenya

Onsite Moderator
Bertrand Moullier
Online Moderator

Benoît Ginisty


Dana Pohl


The 30 minutes' session will be in the form of a one to one interview with Mrs Sarah Migwi, followed by a Q&A and interaction with both onsite and online participants.

Duration (minutes)



Sarah Migwi, is the CEO of Protel Studios, a successful audiovisual content company based in Nairobi, Kenay.  She is an award winning Content & Film Producer with over 21 years experience in creating engaging content for digital and new media as well as traditional media. Sarah specialises in the creative production of films and branded content including: TV commercials, corporate videos, short films, TV programs, reality content, documentary projects, web series, online podcasts and more. Protel's prolific output includes programmes and series in minority languages in the East African region.

During this short interview session, Sarah will reflect on the importance for creative audioviusual producers to seize the new opportunities from the development of Internet broadband and mobile technologies to drive sustainable local content production and respond to local audiences' demand for both local and global content. She will reflect on the growing inter-dependency between the broadband and audiovisual ecosystems and how successful integration between the two contributes to economic and social inclusion.

Diverse participation in this session from a variety of stakeholders' groups is encouraged. Hearing Sarah Migwi's experience is of relevance to a wide array of constituencies, including consumers, professional film and TV content producers, government regulators, legislators and NGOs from througout the world. 

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Need to incentivise local professional audiovisual content production as a proven driver of demand for Internet connectivity and devices

Need to offer better protection of IP assets developped by local audiovisual content companies, so they may achieve long term sustainability

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

Sarah Migwi, is the founder and CEO of the Kenyan audiovisual content production company Protel Studios. She was the sole scheduled speaker in this Lightning Talk session organised by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations [FIAPF]. She was interviewed by FIAPF’s Bertrand Moullier.

The editorial aim of the session was to highlight, through a case study, the important role that broadband Internet development in parts of Africa play in enabling a diverse and more sustainable audiovisual content production sector, for the benefit of Internet users. The availability of diverse content in their local languages is a key motivator for individuals to seek to connect to Internet, hence the importance of incentivising local audiovisual production sectors alongside broadband infrastructure development.

Sarah Migwi is a film believer in the adage that “content is king” and that audiovisual content in particular, can help change lives and bring much-needed hope in a region that has been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She believes that, with the exception of music, the medium that cuts most powerfully across age, social class, wealth status and other distinctions, is audiovisual content.

Over the years, with Protel Studios, which she launched in 2008, she and her team have aimed to generate new ideas and develop TV programming that can travel across cultural boundaries within Kenya and East Africa at large. Sarah’s earlier role as an executive in one of the first pan-African broadcasting organisation, the then Tanzania-based East Africa TV, has prepared her well for developing and producing content with a multi-cultural reach.   

Like other successful audiovisual content companies in the East African region, Protel’s output is diverse and multi-format. However, TV programming has been at the heart of its content strategy from the outset, ranging broadly from serious drama to comedy, reality and game shows.

Sarah described the two main content production strategies available to companies working in her market: the first entails media houses (e.g. TV stations and other platforms) calling for projects in specific genres and formats and inviting Protel and other companies to pitch ideas which – if selected – will then be fully commissioned and their production costs fully paid for by the broadcaster. In this instance, the commissioning entity owns the copyright in the project as well as all distribution and exploitation rights.

The second model entails Protel’s creative and business teams generating their own ideas for new original content, financing it independently and picking the best destination platforms to license the content to. Sarah has a strong preference for this second model. The reason is that, by Protel covering its own production risk (downside), it is also in a position to own and all IP rights in the content produced and to control the licensing choices and revenues that may accrue from such deals (upside).  It also means licensing to as many platforms as possible in order to cover the costs of production and maximise consumers’ options for seeing the content.

Sarah observed that the digital disruption has given the Kenyan audiovisual sector new and exciting options. “Digital has put the power back on us as originators of content”, she says. Protel’s deployment on the Internet began in 2009, when the company opened its own branded channel on YouTube. This first move made it possible for Protel to establish a direct connection with the audience for the popular shows whose IP rights Sarah and her team own and control. She believes Over-the-top Internet services are an important destination for Protel’s original content and observes that their viewers are “no longer wedded to television by appointment” and have online alternatives.

As she took advantage of more IP ownership of Protel’s content and the opportunities offered by the growth in broadband fixed and mobile services in the regions, Sarah kept the focus on making shows that are truly reflective of the living culture and sub-cultures of Kenya and surrounding countries. For a successful satirical show, ApaKuleNews, she experimented with shooting not in Ki-Swahili or English but, rather in Sheng, the urban slang used by the youth the show was aimed at. The experience was conclusive, with ApakuleNews aggregating significant numbers and developing cult status amongst the young.

For one of Protel most successful shows, the hugely popular sitcom Real Househelps of Kawangare, Sarah also committed to realism by having actors speak in the same urban slang. Sarah had licensed the linear broadcaster KTN for a limited for two weekly runs and thereafter a second run on their premium pay platform. In parallel, after KTN’s initial windoe, Real Househelps was also put it up on the Protel Youtube channel, where it attracted millions of additional viewers.

Sarah’s vision for the next stage of Protel’s growth is to launch their own branded OTT service, direct to the consumer, without the mediation of a hosting site. Sarah points our that this development will enable Protel to offer different packages at different pricing points, from all-you-can-eat annual subscriptions to transactional per-view options, and including a free option where consumers could enjoy content with short advertising breaks.

As Sarah sees it, having its own Internet-based platform will give Protel the freedom to upload its content and thus exploit the entire back-catalogue and current IP assets whilst continuing to also license to free to air broadcasters.

Sarah believes that local creative entrepreneurs like herself need two main sets of measures to be able to play their part fully in the growth of demand for Internet connectivity and services. The first priority should be better protection of copyright owners, which she describes as very ineffectual at present. She observes that – although there is legislation, the enforcement is weak and needs to addressed. The second priority is a banking system that recognises professionally-produced audiovisual content as valuable IP assets that can be used a collateral to raise cash-flow loans and other forms of financing for local content of cultural and social relevance.