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CEO of iROKOtv “Africa’s Netflix” shares thoughts on Netflix entering the continent

Jason Njoku, African VOD Services

For over 3 years, iROKOtv, the Nigerian VOD (Video On Demand) service which has helped distribute Nollywood(the Nigerian film industry) to the rest of the world has been called the “Netflix of Africa”.

It’s a fitting tag. After all, the service has had one of the most successful runs in internet TV that has caught the attention of every other African player in the pay-TV space.

iROKO caters to a wide audience and has figured out a lot of dynamics on content distribution versus bigger entertainment dragons like MultiChoice and the straight to DVD distribution model.

Jason Njoku, the larger than life personality behind iROKOtv, recently shared his own perspective on what Netflix in Africa really means for iROKOtv. Part of his blog post touched on how iROKOtv isn’t going to whither away because Netflix is in Africa.

As he simply puts it iROKOtv is iROKOtv and Netflix is its own service, Netflix. Njoku says,

I use Netflix pretty much every week. My wife uses it pretty much every week. I have been a subscriber since 2012 and have never churned out. It’s amazing. I have blogged and generally been smitten by the company and their internet style market share grab. Where possible, I even try to emulate it. But Netflix irokotv isn’t. irokotv is irokotv.

But as I have mentioned before, 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.

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. Yup US and UK represent ~55% of our subscription base. And it’s grown (not break-neck) 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 YoY for the little service we provide.Building subscription business’ are hard. Heck we are only 4 years old. So why people think we will suddenly die now they are in Nigeria is totally beyond me.  I remember when Deezer came to Nigeria (and Africa). I have been a subscriber there for almost 3 years. I use it, without fail, daily. 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!

He is pointing to one major aspect that VOD services entrenched in Africa or any other part of the world have likely realised. Netflix won’t corner all possible markets and cater to every TV tastebud. players like iROKOtv have catered for a huge market that, by all indications and even responses by other players like DStv, is growing – Local content.

he also downplays some of the noise around the effect Netflix is meant to have on Nigeria and iROKOtv’s plans for an enduring model.

So Netflix being in Nigeria has zero impact on iROKO and our vision for the future. If it’s Nollywood fanatics, you know those guys can watch 3-5 hours per day, so Irokotv is still the only place they can find most of what they are looking for. 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 DVDmarket, this only makes us stronger.

But this is all grammar. iROKO is dead. Netflix is here to fix our FX issues, improve the petrol prices and pull us through our post colonial poverty.

You can read the full post from Njoku here and find out how in the midst of fortifying iROKOtv’s name, he is emphasising some interesting points on what iROKo in Africa really means.

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