By now most Zimbabweans who are active on social media are familiar with the name Bustop TV – that’s the local internet video outfit formerly known as P.O Box TV – which has become hard-to-miss with its popular skits.
Despite all the visibility that their work has created for them or the value that is being created by their type of content, the comedy troupe isn’t placing all its bets on just one approach to entertaining Zimbabweans online.
It recently introduced a new web-based TV show called Dear Africa starring Zimbabwean stand up comedian Doc Vikela. On the show, Vikela delivers a monologue touching on different trending issues, and this is sometimes accompanied by a guest interview.
Dear Africa appears to be drawing some of its inspiration from news satire shows like Onion TV that also deliver parodied news with a strong emphasis on sarcasm.
So far the Dear Africa show has taken a shot at issues like the National Pledge and the #ThisFlag citizen protest while making references to other politically inclined topics like factionalism.
Zimbabwean internet video content evolves
Last month when we ran an in-depth feature on Zimbabwe’s internet video economy there were some significant findings that helped shape our understanding of how the internet was being used by local content creators.
One realisation was that comedy is the dominant genre for Zimbabwean internet video creators with the clearest scope for monetisation so far. However, the format has mostly been the skits that are laced with some subtle references to the topical issues that aren’t always directly confronted because of political undertones.
Dear Africa, much like Zambezi News which is another Zimbabwean online satirical show, has a more deliberate approach to these topics. However, it also represents an opportunity being explored by Bustop TV to offer a different flavour of comedy which will help ensure relevance through content variety.
As successful as the current run of skits has been in terms of revenues which come from branded entertainment deals, at some point that could be affected by any other new show or format that draws viewers attention.
If Bustop TV has a new type of show (and hopefully many others after this one) it can maintain the loyalty of existing fans who remain engaged in a channel that is not just the same type of comedy as every other producer, but also a diverse offering.
It’s an evolutionary stage of sorts that all video creators keen on remaining relevant have to consider, especially on the internet where an alternative is always a click away.