Netflix launch in Africa has “zero impact on iROKO”

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The launch of movie-streaming service Netflix across Africa has “zero impact” on Nigerian startup iROKO, according to the latter’s chief executive officer (CEO) Jason Njoku.

Netflix took many by surprise this week with its expansion into 130 countries, including across Africa, but Njoku said the arrival of a rival movie-streaming firm on the continent did not affect iROKO as his company remained the best place to find Nollywood content.

“If it’s Nollywood fanatics, you know those guys can watch 3-5 hours per day, so iROKO is still the only place they can find most of what they are looking for,” he said.

“Considering we are one of the biggest actual producers of Nollywood, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. In time, we will be able to produce 200 movies a year ourselves, no shaking. And with the evident collapse of the DVD market, this only makes us stronger.”

iROKO had a testing 2015, but ended the year on a high by partnering the Canal+ Group in a “multi-million euro deal”  to create and launch the first Francophone SVOD service aimed at bringing affordable, popular mobile TV content to French-speaking Africa.

Njoku – who also said he used Netflix “pretty much every week” and finds it an amazing service – said there was a clear differentiation between the two companies.

“There is only one Netflix of Africa. And that is Netflix. Why? People fail to remember that Netflix is an 18-year-old company. 18 years they have been refining their skills at getting people to subscribe for content. They are just awesome at it. But Africa is a little different,” he said.

“What iROKO is, and has largely always been known for, is the home of Nollywood. Home and abroad. The strange thing about the mourners of iROKO is they always mention how most of our subscribers are in the West. Yes, the US and UK represent around 55 per cent of our subscription base. And it’s grown, not breakneck, but steadily, over the last few years, in Netflix’s back yard. Folk in the US and UK (the top 2 Netflix markets) have been happy to pay year-on-year for the little service we provide.”

Njoku questioned why – based on this – people think iROKO will “suddenly die” now Netflix has launched in Nigeria.

“I remember when Deezer came to Nigeria (and Africa). I have been a subscriber there for almost three years. I use it, without fail, daily,” he said.

“But when they released their IPO documents, Africa wasn’t even mentioned. It represented nothing. And thats 3mb mp3 files. Not 300mb movie files which require a continuous connection for streaming. But Netflix is in Africa!”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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