German broadcaster Sport1’s new channel eSportsONE is now available on the new Canal+ pay TV platform in Ethiopia, following a distribution deal between Sport1 and Canal+ Group.
eSportsONE, which launched in November last year, is mainly distributed in Europe, where it is already available in Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Norway and Sweden.
The channel is offered in the Desta package on Canal+ Ethiopia and features over 1,000 live hours of international eSports events per year, as well as exclusive in-house analysis formats. Its content partners are ESL, NBA 2K League, Psyonix and Activision Blizzard.
Vivendi-owned Canal+ Group has partnered with Nigerian video-on-demand company iRoko to launch a mobile-first SVoD service for French-speaking Africa.
Set to roll out in the coming months, the service is part of Canal+’s new strategy of expanding its footprint globally. According to the company, sub-Saharan Africa counts 250 million French speakers across 23 countries and as many as 165 million smartphones were thought to be in circulation up to 2020.
Jacques du Puy, president of Canal+ Overseas, said: “Now that Canal+ is close to having two million pay TV households in Africa, our ambition is to widen our audience to those whose mobile is the main entertainment device.
“iRoko’s original approach integrating popular content production and mobile SVoD perfectly matches our group’s entertainment vision in French-speaking Africa. This will also allow us to make more accessible the content that we specifically produce and design for the African market.”
iRoko CEO Jason Njoku added that his company has been “committed to leading viewers to content they will love and Canal+ Overseas shares our vision, translated into French. Canal+ has over 20 years’ experience of delivering content to Francophone Africa, we have an unrivalled Nollywood content catalogue and have pioneered VoD in Africa.”
The on-demand service will be accessed via an Android App with download functionality, aimed at building a mobile-only subscriber base and will showcase popular French-language TV content. The app will be entirely translated into French and all content will be in French.
Canal+ and iRoko previously signed content distribution deals for linear TV channels including Nollywood TV. Last year Canal+ acquired Nollywood broadcaster and production studio ROK from iRoko for an undisclosed sum as part of a move to boost its local production in Africa.
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.”