Why Nigeria's obsession with Telemundo is unstoppable

These telenovelas are full of stereotypical, exaggerated and melodramatic behaviours, yet, they are very successful.

These shows are imported from Latin America and the language dubbed to the English language.

Typically, most of them revolve around the same story: a love triangle; a family secret; family feud over an inheritance; the search of a birth parent - it always feels the same.

They are stereotypical, exaggerated, melodramatic, yet, also very addictive and successful.

Why do Nigerians religiously follow these telenovelas on a daily basis? It is because they are dramatic, exciting and offer a sort of escapism they can't seem to get from American and Nigerian shows.

For some, it's soothing to disappear into the world of someone, whose problems make theirs seem like a walk in the park.

The characters in these telenovelas go through tragedies and complex situations that endear them to the viewers.

The endings are predictable, yet, viewers derive their pleasure from the twists and turns.

"The script writers are fantastic, they really know how to get their viewers hooked and the suspense is so real," a colleague said.

These shows satisfy a deep craving among Nigerian viewers, asking viewers to watch for no other reason than pleasure.

The telenovela boom kicked off about 25 years ago, when NTA decided to start selling air time to Nigerian producers. Indigenous classics like Amaka Igwe’s "Checkmate" were forced to round off their stories after NTA doubled their air time prices, according to Nigerian filmmaker Chris Ihidero in an article titled 'Why There Will Be Crap on Nigerian Television For a Long Time To Come.'

NTA, which was home to classics like "Mirror in the Sun," "Cockrow at Dawn" and "Village Headmaster," suddenly became home to South-American telenovelas like "The Rich Also Cry," and "Secrets of the Sand."

As these Latin American shows cultivated a huge following, NTA made profit from adverts placed by the likes of Lever Brothers, PZ and UACN.

And by the time private TV stations like Africa Independent Television (AIT) emerged, they continued from where NTA  stopped, offering a huge dose of telenovelas including "When You're Mine," "Catalina and Sebastian" and "Second Chance."

In recent times, almost all cable companies have at least one channel dedicated to telenovelas. For instance, DSTV has EVA and the popular Telemundo channel, which debuted in 2013.

So far, these channels have aired popular telenovelas including "My Heart Beats for Lola," "Aurora" and "Behind  Closed Doors."

These telenovelas have become a cultural phenomenon and topic of controversies. One indication of the extent to which they are taken seriously can be seen in a 2015 incident when a  from school because she was watching Telemundo.

Also in 2016, Uduak Isong listed Telemundoas one of the challenges facing Nollywood. We have major challenges, there’s piracy, there’s poor distribution, and there’s Telemundo," she said.

Bottom line is that these Latin American telenovelas have thrived in Nigeria because the themes, though surprising, resonate with Nigerian viewers: A rich boy falls in love with a girl;  a teacher falls in love with a student;  a daughter is maltreated by her unknown mother; a man falls in love with mother and daughter.

Nigerian viewers seem fascinated by these tropes.

And despite the presence of popular Nigerian telenovelas like "Hush," "Jemeji," "Hotel Majestic," "Taste of Love" and "Battleground," the Telemundo craze in Nigeria isn't ending or declining anytime soon.

Perhaps, this is because unlike the above-mentioned Nigerian shows that air on premium cable channels, Latin American soaps are available on the cheapest cable package.

Considering that the country's economy is not on an easy roll, and with a constant need for the telenovela meal to keep the body and soul of the populace going, the Latin American soaps will still be winning in the nearest future.

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