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kweliTV's DeShuna Spencer Talks Celebrating Global Black Stories

Tim Siglin: Welcome back to Streaming Media East 2022 here in Boston at the Westin Copley. And we're gonna talk a little bit about a company called kweliTV. So we've got the CEO and founder with us, introduce yourself and tell me what the word "kweli" means.

DeShuna Spencer: So I'm DeShuna Spencer, Founder and CEO of kweliTV. We are streaming service that celebrates global Black stories. We amplify Black storytellers from across the globe. We currently have over 600 titles in our platform and we also work with over 450 filmmakers globally. And kweli means "truth" in Swahili. The whole mission is to curate content that's a true reflection of the global black experience.

Tim Siglin: I've had the honor of working in Nigeria and Ghana and listening to people's stories, because I worked with a lot of small businesses and women-owned businesses, helping them to figure out how to grow their business in those economies. Some of the stories are fascinating. And I think one of the things that caught my attention when you were talking just a minute ago with Eric was you're not looking for the "Black trauma" stories. You're looking for the black empowerment and uplifting stores. Why is that?

DeShuna Spencer: I think a lot of times for traditional media, those stories, the ones that tend to be permanent in mainstream media--and honestly as a Black person scrolling through Twitter or seeing what happened like this anniversary, George Floyd's death, we're just inundated with so much Black trauma, Black death. We don't want our platform to also do the same thing. We really want our platform to be a safe space. And we also really wanna show Black stories. Like you mentioned parts of Africa, that's not showcasing things you typically think about when you think of Africa. For instance, we have a film in our platform called Africa United. It's in Rwanda. So we think about Rwanda. What's the first thing you think about? Genocide. But this film is about a group of kids who like soccer and the World Cup is in South Africa that year, and the whole film is about them traveling by boat, by walking, by car to get to the World Cup.

Tim Siglin: And in fact, as I think through movies--and you were mentioning some of the movies that win--I can only think of one, Queen of Katwe, which was about the chess team going into the private schools, that I would consider an uplifting movie. Aspirational.

DeShuna Spencer: But typically you think about child soldiers, you think about Black death, Black suffering. Even as a kid, thinking about Africa, you see the commercials of people being poor and thin and you don't really see other types of stories. And on the continent, they're they're growing tremendously. The middle class is growing tremendously. So even they want to see a different side of how people perceive them because it's such a growing economy and we need to showcase that.

Tim Siglin: And do you do things like Nollywood as well? Or is it primarily things like documentaries and feature-length films?

DeShuna Spencer: We do have some Nollywood films. For us it is really more about the stories. And we want to make sure we showcase the entire continent. So we have films from Nollywood, from Nigeria, from Ghana, from Tanzania, Egypt, the Congo. We have content representing at least 15 to 20 Africa countries. Even outside of Africa, we have content from Latin America. So Afro-Latin content, Afro-European content, Afro-Australian content. We're everywhere. So we want to showcase those stories.

Tim Siglin: And if I remember correctly, you're at roughly 50,000 viewers at this point, and you've not taken VC money.

DeShuna Spencer: We've taken like non-traditional VC dollars. Angel investors.

Tim Siglin: I applaud you for that, because it's a hard road, but it's probably the right road so that you don't have to be forced to carry types of content that you don't necessarily want.

DeShuna Spencer: Exactly. And when I started the company, I had no VCs tell me that you need to have fighting or reality television and some of these negative stories or telling me Black people don't want to watch documentaries anyway, which is insane.

Tim Siglin: Well, it seems like the mentality of the VC saying that, they're thinking strictly inner-city America, as opposed to the diaspora. So with, with those viewers, how many of those viewers are in the US on traditional platforms, versus how many of those viewers actually are from Africa or elsewhere?

DeShuna Spencer: 19% of our customers are outside of the US. Other than that 19%, 9% are in Europe, and of that 9% in Europe most in the UK, which makes sense because we're an English-speaking platform first. So it makes sense. And then about 5% are in Africa, mostly Ghana and Senegal, Nigeria, and South Africa. And then we have 5% in Latin America and in the Caribbean--Jamaica, Trinidad, Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil. Those tend to be the areas we have outside of the US.

Tim Siglin: Interesting. Well, thank you very much for your time. And I hope people go back and actually watch the session that you did with Eric, because that was very insightful.

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