An African City has been dubbed “the African Sex and the City,” but it really has a flavor and a following all its own. Creator Nicole Amarteifio is passionate about telling African stories that are relatable to Africans, and to a whole wide world. She started An African City as a free series on YouTube, and now uses Vimeo OTT to sell both seasons directly to fans on their website. And that worldwide fandom is growing: An African City already has customers from over 30 countries.

The series’ success is a great example of how video makers can build a business by growing their audience — and their viewers’ commitment — first. We sat down with Nicole to chat direct distribution, her release strategy, and more.

Vimeo OTT: What inspired you to create this series?

Nicole Amarteifio: I was tired of the single narrative of Africa, of the African woman. The narrative was always wrapped in war, poverty, famine. The story of An African City highlights another world that exists on the continent. It’s a story that shows that African stories can also be universal stories.

How did you build your initial fan base? 

We aired the first season on YouTube and used Facebook and Twitter to help market our content. And, that was it. The visibility was great. However, the monetary value, not so much. So, we tried to encourage our YouTube fans to support us on our monetized Vimeo OTT website. And, they did! We made more in a 24 hour period on Vimeo OTT than we did our two years — and two million views — on YouTube. Grateful to YouTube for the visibility, grateful to Vimeo OTT for allowing a content creator like me to turn a hobby into a business.

Why do you think so many fans who watched season 1 for free were willing to pay for season 2? 

They saw An African City as more than just a show, they saw it as a movement. A movement to highlight an Africa that the world doesn’t show you. A movement they wanted to support, encourage, and be part of.

What was your marketing plan for promoting season 2? 

We uploaded the Season 2 trailer on YouTube as well as the first four minutes of the first episode of Season 2. We then highlighted the Vimeo OTT link (using cards), where online viewers could then click to tune in and purchase Season 2, with new episodes available each following Sunday.

How did pre-orders factor into your strategy? 

We uploaded the Season 2 trailer onto YouTube two weeks before we released the first episode. This allowed for fans to pre-order Season 2 two weeks before the actual launch. The pre-order sales option was very helpful. It gave our fans a sense of ownership prior to launching.

Why did you decide to release a new episode each week vs releasing the complete season all at once? 

This is a journey we are trying to go on with our fans. It’s a journey of mutual engagement — a two way conversation. We’re not trying to have a one-night stand, we are trying to build a long-term relationship. A 13-week run helps build that relationship.

Why did you decide to distribute directly to fans? 

Some of the financial offers by other VOD platforms seemed way too low. Glad I went with my gut instinct — we made more than 1000x those offers. Self-distribution made us truly see the monetary value our fans place on the show, which gives us better leverage with networks in the future. Self-distribution gave us the data we needed to be more informed during future negotiations. Content creators are usually at a disadvantage because they don’t have they data they need, with Vimeo OTT I now have solid data about our audiences and our monetary worth.

What do you like to watch?

Big supporter of Black & Sexy TV! That platform introduced me to Vimeo OTT!

What are your plans for the future? Another season? Additional series? 

Yes, many more shows! This summer we’re shooting the pilot episode of The Republic — think Scandal set in West Africa. Can’t wait! Stay tuned!

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to a fellow creator launching a series? 

Listen to your gut! 

Stream or download every episode of An African City on their website.