Nigerian video-on-demand company iRoko is planning to target markets in North America and Europe rather than focusing on African growth.
The move is part of efforts to reduce ‘cash burn’ and curb losses caused by, among other things, Covid-19, which have led to the axing of around 150 jobs.
Jason Njoku, iRoko’s CEO, said that even though international subscriptions grew by 200% in April, consumer confidence ebbed and collapsed as a result of the economic impact of Covid-19.
The pandemic came at a time when the company’s revenues were being further squeezed by the latest rounds of naira devaluations and an amendment to the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission code regarding payments to artists.
“All of the macro and individual issues plaguing West Africa were essentially not major issues in the West. Yes, jobs were being lost. Yes, economies were contracting, but with all the stimuli leaders were injecting, it made the impact on the average person marginal,” said Njoku.
“Our annual ARPU [average revenue per user] internationally is US$25 to US$30. When people talk to me about Netflix and its impact globally, and then in Africa, I always smile. My response is the same. Globally, streaming media is booming. In Africa, it is regressing.
“iRoko is now ‘pausing the burn’ and plans to hunker down and see what the next 18 months brings. Even after pushing incredibly hard in Africa for the last five years, our international business represents 80% of our revenue today. So by taking out Africa growth-related costs, we cut our US$300,000-per-month burn to less than US$50,000 a month. Still high, but once things normalise we should have a clear path to free cash flow and profits in 2021.
“We still believe in Nigeria, we still believe in Ghana, we still believe in Africa. It’s a strange thing to realise that even after almost nine years with iRokoTV, five exclusively focused in Africa, we still may be too early for Africa.”
Last year, iRoko sold its African film studio and international TV network ROK to French audiovisual firm Canal+ Group, which bought the company to strengthen its content production reach across Africa.
France-based Canal+ Group has acquired Nollywood broadcaster and production studio ROK for an undisclosed sum as part of a move to boost its local production in Africa.
The deal was struck with ROK’s Nigeria-based parent company Iroko, which has exited the production and broadcast subsidiary while retaining full ownership of Francophone African SVoD platform Iroko+, which was previously a joint venture with Canal+.
ROK claims to reach some 15 million pay TV subscribers across the DSTV and GOTV platforms in Africa with its ROK channels and has so far produced over 540 movies and 25 original TV series, making it one of the most prolific production houses in Nollywood.
Under Canal+’s ownership, ROK will produce “thousands more hours of Nollywood content to deliver movies and original TV series” for Canal+’s audiences in French-speaking Africa, according to the French firm. The acquisition also includes ROK’s linear pay channels.
Iroko, which also owns and operates the Iroko SVoD app across Anglophone Africa and around the world, launched ROK in 2013 to produce content for its various platforms. Canal+ Group will continue to collaborate with Iroko, with non-exclusive content distribution of ROK content via Iroko’s SVoD app.
As part of the deal with Canal+, ROK founder Mary Njoku – who is married to Iroko founder and CEO Jason Njoku – will continue as director general of ROK Productions SAS, and retain a shareholding in the company.
“ROK has captured the imagination of millions of movie fans and they have truly supported us as we’ve grown the company to celebrate and enjoy our African culture,” she said.
“I’m excited to be taking our platform on the next stage of its journey with Canal+ Group, which shares our passion for creating original content and supporting new talent, and together we have ambitious plans for the future.”
Jacques du Puy, CEO of Canal+ International, added: “Through this acquisition, Canal+ Group is very happy to develop and enhance the catalogue of Nollywood content and expand the ROK brand inside and outside the African continent.”
Nigeria’s minister of information and culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed kicked off the second edition of the Creative Nigeria Summit (CNS) this week, calling on the creative industry to focus on what consumers want.
The CNS is a two-day conference held annually to bring together international and indigenous experts, thought leaders, industry players and renowned professionals within the Nigerian film and television industries to discuss issues affecting the business.
His speech in full:
Good morning gentlemen, and welcome to the 2018 Creative Industry Summit, with the theme Content – The Future of Nigerian Film and Television in a Digital Era.
This is the second edition of the summit, which started last year. The summit has thus become an annual event designed to bring together international and indigenous experts, thought leaders, key players and renowned professionals from the entertainment and media industry, to examine and exchange ideas and innovations, to create sustainable solutions to challenges and harness the full potential of the Nigerian film and television industry.
The two-day summit, put together by Think Tank Media and Advertising Ltd, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, was born and executed out of a desire to urgently transform the film, television and music sectors into a well-structured industry.
The first edition last year achieved several milestones:
i) Following the summit, a delegation of the Nigerian Film and Music Industry, led by my humble self, held a piracy stakeholders’ meeting with the inspector-general of police, resulting in the establishment of police anti-piracy units in all the 36 states. The subsequent extensive piracy raids have led to the confiscation of pirated products worth hundreds of millions of naira.
ii) Granting of pioneer status for the creative industry by the federal government to reduce financial burdens on new investments and encourage both foreign and local investments within the industry.
iii) A meeting with the governor of the Central bank of Nigeria requesting the provision of stimulus capital for the creative industry to be invested through long-tenured single-digit debt to private investors to build 100 community cinemas, six music arenas across the geopolitical zones and state-of-the-art pre- and post-production facilities across the country.
iv) Granting of special priority status to international and national investors to access foreign exchange.
v) A sovereign guarantee to back up international loans to achieve any of the stated infrastructure projects.
vi) Co-ordination of an arrangement to establish a world-class media services production company that will produce Premier League [football], music videos for artists, films for Nollywood and TV shows and soaps for television.
vii) Setting up of an audience rating and measurement body for TV and radio, on the back of the ongoing rollout of the digital switch-over (DSO).
During the intervening period between the inaugural edition and the year’s summit, our personal research has been focused on an understanding of what, in particular, the customers in the 24 million TV households in Nigeria really want. We have arrived at the findings that the digitisation of television required a much deeper understanding of customers, content and the quality of delivery of ‘video.’ Yes, I did not use [the word] television and that is because that is not what people all want to watch. They want to watch videos, however they are delivered, including – but definitely not limited to – television.
The landscape has changed. The accelerating shift towards mobile delivery continues unabated and a content rekindling has left consumers feeling lost in a sea of available programming. I believe the time to act is now. Media and entertainment companies that want to stay in the game may need to embark upon a holistic, coordinated and integrated programme of digital innovation to focus their resources, investments and capabilities on the things that truly matter.
With respect to content consumers in Nigeria, a well-researched survey of what the customers want, where they are, what they watch, want to watch, when and how they want it delivered, does not exist. The stakeholders within the ecosystem of the DSO project are unfortunately focused on their immediate economic returns and convenient modules of implementation. But technological growth does not flow along those lines and, in the near future, smart media entities will outstrip all plans, institutions and government power and reach the customer, leaving non-informed players with empty castles.
On the issue of content, Nigeria is the clear leader in raw content in Africa. Nollywood, hip-hop, Afrobeat and our comedians testify to this. But we are hardly monetising them either through production, distribution or royalty collection. In fact, with about 20 billion naira currently expended on the DSO, less than N500m has gone into content. It is apparent Nigeria has forgotten that video, not television, is about content.
And everywhere in the world, Video has exploded via on-demand and live streaming. Online TV or subscription services are now the norm – YouTube, Netflix, Iroko etc. Video is now delivered via social feeds like Facebook, WeChat, LINE etc. Indeed, video is the future of media on the web and is competing with scheduled linear TV content for consumer attention. I implore the key players in the DSO project to focus on any of the above.
A recent survey done in over 42 countries revealed that expected video consumption on devices over the next three years will grow 45% on mobile, 45% on internet-enabled TVs, 40% on tablets and 36% on laptop computers. Traditional TV grew by 0%. This led the researchers to come to the conclusion that video is not only increasingly consumed from the internet, it is clearly going mobile.
TV companies have used their advantage of being first in the homes to introduce data to the homes, thereby not only improving their revenues significantly but securing their roles in the future of video watching. Some 70% of homes in the UK get their data from Sky, Virgin or YouView. In fact, BT, the main telecom operator, rushed to set up their own TV entity, acquiring Champions League football rights and offering it for free, if you buy data from them. Who is doing this in Nigeria? This is where we have to play.
Very soon the race for content will begin. With a significant increase in the number of distribution channels and a variety of content to choose from, the clear winner will be the media company that invests in high-quality original content that has taken into consideration the preferences of the customer. Ultimately, the goal will be to match content with audience expectation and enjoy maximum compensation.
Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to use this opportunity to salute all the players in our creative industry. They have all made Nigeria proud. Between the 2017 summit and this year’s edition, we have seen a harvest of global recognitions for our industry players. Mo Abudu and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde were named among the top 50 women doing extraordinary things on the worldwide stage by Variety magazine, and prolific author Chimamanda Adichie’s novel Americanah was listed in the New York Times’ list of 15 remarkable books by women that are ”shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century.”
Also, Wizkid has made history by becoming the first African artiste to sell out the Royal Albert Hall in London, while Davido emerged winner of the 2018 BET Award International Act. Congratulations to all these stars who are making our country proud, and indeed to all of you in the rapidly flourishing creative industry
Finally, let me assure you that this administration remains dogged in its determination to grow the creative industry and turn it into a creative economy. I wish you all fruitful deliberations and I thank you for your kind attention.
For more information about the conference, click here. The Twitter hashtag for the event is #CNS2018 and the Instagram account can be found here.
African VoD service iRoko has launched in Ghana with a host of Ghanaian and Nigerian movies and TV series.
The company, which launched in 2010 as a YouTube channel, claims to be the world’s largest online distributor of African content.
iRoko is already available in Nigeria and South Africa, while a French-language version launched in Senegal, Cameroon, both Congos and the Ivory Coast earlier this year.
The Ghanaian service includes recent movies and TV series such as Stalemate, Ghana Must Go and Black & White. Other English-speaking territories such as Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are being eyed for 2018.
The service costs GHC25 (US$5.67) for a 12-month subscription and allows users to download movies and series directly onto their phones via kiosks without using up their data.
Jason Njoku, CEO of Nigeria-based iRoko, said: “We know that our Ghanaian neighbours cannot get enough great content, but that data costs have all too often been prohibitive to them watching content online.”