Streaming services like Netflix are great, but you often end up watching the same blockbuster movies showing how a white man will save the world. Meet Afrostream, a niche movie streaming service that only features African and African-American content. Launching in September, this startup may have found a great underserved segment.
“When I was a kid, for a long time, I was looking for role models on TV to relate to them,” co-founder and CEO Tonjé Bakang told me. “There are a lot of successful athletes and artists, but it’s hard to find African and African-American movies.”
Now attending Y Combinator‘s current batch, the French startup started with just a Facebook page in January 2014. On the Afrostream page, you could find Afro-American movie trailers and teasing announcements for a streaming service. Fast forward a bit, AfroStream’s Facebook page now has 72,000 fans, which is in par with well-established French competitors, such as CanalPlay.
Shortly after this idea validation, the team actually started building a service that would feature this kind of movies. “What’s great is that this content already exists. Our goal is to leverage streaming to address our audience. They don’t have any legal solution to access this content,” Bakang said.
“Even when you look at Popcorn Time or BitTorrent websites, Afro-American content is missing,” Bakang said. “And if you find a movie, it doesn’t have subtitles.”
The company signed content deals with major studios, independent American, African and British distributors. You will find movies that you already know, with some of them already available on Netflix or CanalPlay. But you will also find movies that aren’t available on any streaming service — chances are you’ve never heard of them.
Afrostream is launching in September for €7 per month in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Senegal and Ivory Coast. “And we already have the rights for many other African countries,” Bakang said. 2,000 people already signed up to the service months before its launch, giving around $100,000 to the company in just four weeks.
Even more impressive, Afrostream worked with TF1 in order to create a new category on MyTF1 VOD called Afrostream VOD to rent a few movies of its catalog. While the company still believe that a subscription service is the way to go, it was a nice way to get exposure and maybe a bit of cash. According to Bakang, this partnership is a success as well.
It seems like everything Afrostream touches turns into subscriptions and sales. There is a clear market potential behind Afrostream’s niche, and if the company executes well on its idea, it could end up creating a significant niche streaming service, joining Korean drama streaming service DramaFever or auteur cinema streaming service Mubi.
“We want to entertain people and make a feel-good platform. A movie can elevate or inspire someone, and that’s why there’s so much excitement around us,” Bakang said. He also told me that under-representation leads to poor understanding, and he wants to solve that.