Bhutanese streaming platform Samuh is gaining international recognition


Founder and CEO of Samuh, Nyema Zam, recently won the Business Rice Awards 2022.

The entertainment sector is a multibillion-dollar industry. Case in point, Netflix achieved a revenue of $29 billion in 2021. Noting the opportunity, a Bhutanese woman set out to establish one such entertainment platform — a Bhutanese Netflix if you will — known to Bhutan and the world as Samuh.

About Samuh

Samuh is an OTT (Over The Top — referring to any streaming service that delivers content over the internet) platform that offers a wide range of original, licensed, and curated Bhutanese content. The channel can be accessed at any time and from 117 countries around the world. Samuh was founded in 2020 and officially launched in July 2022.

While Samuh appears to be about entertainment, it really provides more than mere entertainment. 

At its heart, Samuh aims to preserve Bhutan’s rich culture and traditions, materialising this intention in the form of high-quality creative productions meant for viewers of all age groups, may it be among the Bhutanese or a niche international audience with an interest in Bhutan. 

The content includes original films, original web series, documentaries, music videos, and kids’ cartoons. Samuh also cooperates with talents in the Bhutanese creative industry to produce the material.

Samuh OTT platform is owned by Samuh Mediatech, Bhutan’s first Mediatech Startup pioneering Bhutanese video streaming services. Samuh’s technical partner is Benchmark Broadcast Systems in Singapore.

Founder of Samuh wins Rise Award

The woman behind Samuh is Nyema Zam, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the up-and-coming streaming platform.

Founder and CEO of Samuh, Nyema Zam

Picture Credit: Business Bhutan

Nyema’s accomplishment as a woman leader running Samuh, seen by the remarkable growth of the product, was recently recognised when Nyema received the Rise Awards 2022, honoured as the winner of the Females Leading Business Operations in the Media, Broadcast, and Technology Sector category. 

The Rise Award is a celebration of the outstanding talent, skill, expertise, and achievements of exceptional women across the broadcast technology and services sector. The awards received more than 300 applicants from around the world in 2022, among which only the top nominees in 16 different categories were shortlisted. The event was held in London, the United Kingdom.

The story behind Samuh

Nyema first had the idea to start Samuh while she was in Australia. The initial plan was to establish Samuh as part of BBS (Bhutan Broadcasting Services). A while later, she discovered that Samuh functioned better as a standalone platform, and thus began the hard work of financing the project and finally watching it come to fruition. 

In March 2021, Samuh started working with local producers to create content. Her principle was simple — content is king and for its production, collaboration is the key. They knew they had a blue ocean because even if other OTT platforms were to join the market, they would not have the content Samuh had.

During the pandemic, the Bhutanese artists were among the hardest hit, losing their income as a result of the lockdowns and economic downturn. Nyema’s Samuh was a lifeline for many of those affected, creating employment for the creatives, insofar that there were even more jobs in the production industry than before the pandemic.

Once upon a time, the only way for Bhutanese artists to monetise their skills was through sponsorships or selling tickets to their shows. With the introduction of Samuh, Bhutanese artists now have a new platform to showcase their talents. Following the launch of Samuh, a career in the arts has become more viable than before.

As of 2021, Samuh had already worked with 45 production houses and more than 600 people. They receive at least one proposal a day, but unfortunately, less than half get accepted. Nevertheless, Samuh appreciates the momentum, because more proposals mean the bloom of the Bhutanese creative industry. Achieving such heights despite the pandemic takes a great business mind, thus it is no wonder that Nyema received the Rice Award.

That said, Nyema’s accolades extend beyond the Rice Award. Some of her other achievements are:

  • Finalists in the Movers & Shakers Award 2022 at the British Academy of Films and Television Arts in the UK for the category of ‘Best Initiative to Grow the Local Creative Industry’
  • Winner of the JICA Glocal Awards, which included a grant of Nu 2 million and mentorship by global experts on overseas business expansion and digital marketing

Nonetheless, Nyema is aware that those like her are in the minority. She shared that there are significantly fewer female CEOs in technology, media, and broadcast in the world, with even lower numbers in developing countries.

She asserts that female leadership is only possible when people and policy-makers champion women-led businesses. She attributes her success to the King and Queen of Bhutan, who have been supportive of the creative and technology sector. 

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