Mansa, a free ad-supported streaming service and content aggregator that offers a curated selection of Black cultural content, launched out of stealth today. Mansa offers a wide variety of content, from on-demand titles and digital linear (FAST) channels to short-form videos and user-generated content.
The company was founded by actors David Oyelowo (“Selma”), Chiké Okonkwo (“La Brea”) and Nate Parker (“The Great Debaters”), along with tech entrepreneur and film financier Zak Tanjeloff, who produced “The Birth of a Nation” and “American Skin.”
The company is also announcing today that it recently closed an $8 million seed round, led by MaC Venture Capital, as well as additional funding from Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo, Mike Novogratz’s web3-focused Galaxy Digital, Robert F. Smith, Base Ventures, Dubin & Co. and Rainmaker Films.
Mansa is additionally backed by notable investors including former NBA player and former Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson’s Black Capital VC; James Norman, CEO of Pilotly and managing partner of Black Operator Ventures; and Wemimo Abbey, co-founder of the SoftBank-backed Esusu, among others.
Today, there are a few SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) services in the space that cater to Black audiences, such as BET+, ALLBLK, Black Cinema+ and Brown Sugar. However, Tanjeloff says the market is lacking free, ad-supported platforms that super-serve this audience.
The company noted that Black audiences make up nearly 40% of the view time on major ad-supported streaming services like Tubi (39%) and Pluto TV (36%), according to Nielsen.
“That was sort of our aha moment, which is, can we build a streaming platform for curated global Black culture, and deliver it to the world for free,” Tanjeloff said.
To date, Mansa has licensed more than 1,500 hours of content, including on-demand movies and TV shows, as well as a live TV offering through digital linear (FAST) channels.
Some recognizable titles on the platform right now are “Second Coming” starring Idris Elba, “Boy Genius,” “River Runs Red,” “Canal Street” and Trevor Noah’s comedy special “You Laugh But It’s True,” among others.
Within the “Mansa TV” tab, users can find over 24 licensed FAST channels, such as Maverick Black Cinema, True Crime Now, Judge Faith, Gravitas Movies and more.
Plus, Mansa features user-generated content, including video podcasts and short-form videos.
Users can scroll through a TikTok-style feed via Mansa’s mobile app, which features trending videos from YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. Categories range from music and sports to pop culture, food, travel and fashion.
“Our target audience — Gen Z and younger millennials — are spending almost eight hours a day [watching content],” Tanjeloff said. “For four hours a day [they are] in front of a television screen, watching long-form content, and the other four hours in front of their phone watching short-form content. So what we thought would be interesting was if we can marry the two in a really interesting way that nobody is doing.”
Additionally, Mansa offers a feature that will likely entice its Gen Z and millenial users. Called “Watch Out Loud,” the feature lets users join a watch party (or “Room”) and stream movies and TV shows alongside creators and independent filmmakers.
Users can post text comments underneath the video on mobile. The comments will asynchronously pop up under the video as it plays. A similar concept has been pioneered by Korean video apps, like Viki.
In the future, Mansa aims to allow audio and video comments, as well.
The company is working on original titles through its Mansa Originals division, which will roll out over the next few months. Eventually, Mansa will launch original short-form content made by smaller creators.
Mansa says it’s looking to onboard talent to develop original shows for the platform, including up-and-coming and yet-to-be-discovered creators.
Notably, Mansa claims that all creators it produces original content with will receive equity in the company. Plus, creators will get transparent profit participation and access to viewership data.
“We aim to change the paradigm around creator fairness, solving to address long felt challenges in the industry through addressing, ownership, transparency and community on a foundational level,” Oyelowo said in a statement. “Mansa is diligently looking for content creators and companies within entertainment to work with, building a centralized hub where all can thrive together. To this point, that is something the establishment has been reluctant to do as a matter of practice. We will be announcing some very exciting partnerships and shows very soon.”
According to the company’s website, Mansa is also planning to launch a Future Storytellers Fund, which will finance, develop and distribute the content of 100 Black filmmakers.
Other plans on Mansa’s long-term roadmap include web3 features.
Mansa has been in a beta phase for the past year. While the company declined to disclose specific data, Tanjeloff told us that its retention data is ahead of other platforms in the space.
“From what we can see already, [Mansa] is at or exceeding Pluto TV, Tubi, Crackle and a handful of others, which is really encouraging. It’s such an early stage, and we’ve been blown away by how low our user acquisition costs have been,” he said.
Mansa’s team is comprised of over 30 employees, including key executives with work experience for major media companies like Netflix, BET, Hulu, Roku, Tubi, Redbox and Complex.
“David and Nate are proven creators and producers of culturally relevant and top-selling content. Further, they’ve assembled an all-star cast of content curators, streaming technology product managers and engineers,” said Marlon Nichols, co-founder and managing general partner at MaC Venture Capital, in a statement. “There is no better team to build and grow the category winner in the wide open AVOD sector. They are building the future of advertising and video in a space where there hasn’t been a clear leader. I’m proud to work alongside a committed team that celebrates Black creatives and communities while pushing the culture forward,” he added.
The streaming service plans to expand international markets in the future. To start, Mansa will launch in Nigeria and then in other African countries later on.
Updated 4/18/23 at 1:15 p.m. ET with correction to devices. Mansa is also live today on Roku, Fire TV and Android TV.