ROK founder Mary Njoku and Canal+ International CEO Jacques du Puy tell Content Nigeria about this week’s deal bringing ROK under the wing of the French group.
The recent acquisition of major African film studio and international TV network ROK by French audiovisual firm Canal+ Group is a move that is geared towards strengthening the latter’s content production reach across Africa.
The deal sees Nollywood broadcaster and production studio ROK change hands for an undisclosed sum while ROK’s former owner, SVoD company Iroko Partners, takes full ownership of Francophone African SVoD platform Iroko+, which was previously a joint venture with Canal+.
Content Nigeria caught up with ROK founder Mary Njoku and Jacques du Puy, CEO of Canal+ International, to learned about the motives behind this new partnership.
Elated about the acquisition, du Puy says: “We are happy to welcome Mary Remy Njoku in the Canal+ family. We are glad to expand our activities in Africa to content production. We are proud to strengthen our channel portfolio with the popular and successful ROK channels, that will sit alongside their French sisters, Nollywood TV and Nollywood Epic.”
“I am delighted and proud,” adds Njoku, who is married to Iroko founder and CEO Jason Njoku. “The acquisition of ROK by Canal+ is a great milestone for our business and Nollywood as a whole. We are taking Nollywood to new audiences and that has always been the goal, to take our authentic African stories and share them with the world.”
Du Puy notes that the creation of Nollywood TV began some time ago. “We created Nollywood TV in 2013 after the acquisition of a Nollywood movie package from Africa Magic, part of the MultiChoice Group.
“This content immediately proved to be one of the most relevant in French-speaking Africa, and we had to partner with Iroko to ensure a regular and high-quality supply to Nollywood TV. We also sporadically bought Nollywood series from other producers in Nigeria and recently acquired a small package of premium movies to offer Canal+ subscribers in Africa a Nollywood festival on our premium channel this August.
“We have been acquiring content from Iroko ever since 2013 to feed Nollywood TV. Mary and Jason are not only partners but they are also friends now. We then invested in Iroko in 2015, becoming one of the main shareholders. There is already a long history between Canal+ and Iroko. And ROK Studios is just the largest and more successful producer and aggregator in Nigeria and Ghana,” he adds.
With this week’s deal a landmark accomplishment for the four-year-old start-up, Mary Njoku elaborates on what has propelled the success of the studio so far.
“The fans and lovers of Nollywood across the world motivate us to constantly create quality content. Nollywood fans have a voracious appetite for new content; this is why so many Nollywood films are produced each year.
“However, it is a difficult balance to maintain and develop quality at scale. I had always felt that there was a need for a studio that empowered young people to put their skills to work and create the content that we now see on our ROK, ROK2 and ROK3 channels in Africa and the UK. Now, with the fact we are working even closer with Canal+, we can take this content into French-speaking Africa and eventually the rest of the world.
“Our teams across Accra, Lagos and London cannot be left out of our success story as we all work hand in hand to make ROK story a success,” she adds.
According to both du Puy and Njoku, the deal includes the production studio as well as the four ROK-branded, English-language channels that currently air on African pay TV platforms DStv and GOtv and in the UK on Sky. Canal+ channel distribution subsidiary Thema will oversee the distribution of these channels, adding to its own Nollywood TV and Nollywood Epic channels.
Continuing her leadership role as the director general of ROK Productions, Njoku believes the content that will now be produced will be of higher quality. “With this partnership, we now have the resources to create higher-budget movies,” she says. “Our budgets are typically fairly modest, so get ready to see different types of content across all ROK platforms, including animated content – content that will cut across English- and French-speaking Africa.
“ROK will receive more resources to create content without the loss of our creative freedom. It was very important for us to retain creative rights as this is the main reason for ROK’s success today. We will develop Nollywood in French-speaking Africa and globally through Canal+’s Africa and global channels. Surely this will open more doors to other untapped parts of Africa that need to be reached. However, essentially, it will be more of the same, just at an even faster pace.”
Du Puy thinks the quality of Nollywood movies out there can be enhanced. “Talent is there and Nollywood movies are already very popular,” he says. “But it is true that the audience is more and more demanding, so the quality will progressively enhance because ROK has the unique capacity to detect, select and grow the best and newest talents in Nigeria or Ghana. In addition, we are planning to invest in technical equipment that could be lent to our associated producers.”
Both executives are preparing head-on for any challenges that may arise from this partnership. According to Njoku: “With every partnership comes challenges. However, we hope to resolve all issues amicably and as quickly as possible. We’ve been working alongside Canal+ for nearly five years now so we know how the other works, where our strengths lie, and how to get the best out of one another.”
“We first need to consolidate the leadership position of ROK Studios and go on growing the audience of the ROK channels. Then we would love to explore African kids content, which is very rare at the moment in Africa, and try to bring the Nollywood expertise to French-speaking Africa and to grow the production of daily series there,” du Puy adds.
Strengthening its position as content provider and giving it access to the entire Nollywood value chain, the deal will see Thema working with ROK as well as engage in the distribution of third-party Nollywood content to digital operators across the world; produce and distribute four channels under the ROK brand broadcasted in English-speaking Africa and the UK.
Looking forward to serving fans with more content across all platforms, Njoku says: “ROK will produce thousands of more hours of Nollywood content to deliver movies and original TV series for Canal+ Group’s audiences in French-speaking Africa. As part of the acquisition, Canal+ Group will continue to collaborate with Iroko, with non-exclusive content distribution of ROK content via the Iroko SVoD app.”
The deal, as well as moves by SVoD giants like Netflix to commission more African content for its platform, shows it’s not just African countries that are enjoying Nollywood films and TV series.
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.”
ROK Studio, the Lagos-based producer of Nollywood TV films and series, is on a tour across Africa.
The ROK Me Tour 2019 is intended to be an opportunity for fans to meet their favourite Nollywood stars in person wherever they are in southern Africa.
Stars who have acted in TV series like Husbands in Lagos, Single Ladies and Festac Town are also part of the tour, which was set up by Mary Njoku, CEO of ROK.
The stars include Annie Macauley-Idibia, Desmond Elliot, Jackie Appiah, Mercy Aigbe, Bolanle Ninalowo and Chinedu Ikedieze. So far it has visited Johannesburg and Cape Town and will move on to Lusaka, Accra, Kumasi, Abuja, Lagos and London.
With the release of its new series, The African Couple, ROK is also on the search for local talent.
Njoku said: “We are very excited to be meeting with Nollywood superfans across Africa, whilst also being on the look-out for up-and-coming acting and production talent.
“At ROK, we love telling real African stories and providing opportunities for aspiring writers and actors alike. Nowadays, Nollywood is not just made up of Nigerian stars but African stars around the globe,” she added.
“The ROK Me Tour creates an opportunity to learn from locals in each city. Africans, telling our African stories in our own unique and creative ways, cementing Nollywood as a strong global brand, bringing the African message to the world at large.”
Broadcaster ROK TV has unveiled a reality show that looks into the personal lives of five Nollywood stars.
Being in Nollywood was created by Mary Njoku, Nollywood producer ROK Studios’ CEO, and focuses on Sophie Alakija, Emem Ufot, Efe Irele, Eloho Festus and Joshua Richard, actors from very different backgrounds.
The show aims to reveal the sort of people they are when not on set, looking at their struggles and desire to excel in the movie industry.
Despite being married with two kids, Alakija is determined to make the new show work.
“For me, Being In Nollywood is the most realistic reality show you can get. Absolutely, nothing is being scripted or planned, it is as it happens. And for me, it’s an amazing platform to show that mums can work. I have two kids, I am married but I still go to work,” she said.
Ufot said: “My reality is when you have to go back home but there isn’t really a home to go back to, because you move from one movie set to the other. It’s the struggle of trying to make it in Nollywood. There is really nothing regular – every day is another episode, every day is another thing to see.”
African pay TV provider MultiChoice will next week launch two more channels from Nollywood producer ROK Studios on its TV platforms DStv and GOtv.
ROK 2 will air on DSTV channel 169 and GOtv channel 17, while ROK 3 will air on DSTV channel 164 and GOtv channel 18. In Ghana, ROK 3 will be available on channel 118 and in Uganda on channel 318.
Both the new channels will go live on April 5 and air original content that is intended to appeal to a pan-African audience.
ROK 2 will air indigenous Africa films and TV drama series while ROK 3 will carry a mix of movies and music, with a focus on Ghanaian movies. These will include Agya Fakye Me, Ama Pooley, Born Again, Coach Krakye and Ye Obi Dea Yie and West African music that will air daily from 23.00.
The channels will join ROK, the studio’s first channel that launched on DStv in 2016.
According to Mary Njoku, CEO of ROK, the launch of the channels will help showcase Nollywood and Ghanaian stories to a greater audience. “Great storytelling is at the core of everything ROK does. So we are really delighted to be launching two new TV channels on DStv and GOtv,” she said.
“Everything we do as a film studio has passion and intensity behind it. We ensure beautiful, thrilling and, ultimately, entertaining African stories, which are brought to life with improving production standards. What we achieved with ROK has resonated with audiences around the continent, allowing us to build on our success and bring even more brilliant Nollywood and Ghanaian stories, direct to our loyal fans on DStv.”
Martin Mabutho, general manager of sales and marketing at MultiChoice Nigeria, said: “It is such a great pleasure to be launching these two new ROK channels on both our platforms.
“Our aim is to find content that resonates with our customers and, more, we have realised that our customers love home-grown stories and watching local talent. Adding these two channels speaks to just that. Providing a platform to our African storytellers and celebrating local talent and productions is part of our DNA and what we aim to deliver to our customers for years to come.”
In 2016, the Nollywood studio launched its ROK channel launched on DStv, three years after it first launched on Sky. ROK is a TV channel created by the eponymous Lagos-based film studio known for its original TV series and Nollywood movies, such as Husbands of Lagos and Single Ladies.