The advent of the internet has, no doubt, revolutionised how movie lovers consume content. In recent times, there has been an increase in the number of Video-on-Demand (VoD) platforms in the country. The relatively affordable cost of data has further contributed to the increasing number of these platforms in Nigeria.
With nearly $4 billion in revenue and almost 2,000 productions every year, Nollywood is the second largest movie industry by volume. In the past, Nollywood movies were mostly sold on the streets and to idling motorists caught in traffic as pirated copies. However, things seem to have changed in the last few years.
Presently, movie lovers can have multiple VoD apps installed on their devices. All one has to worry about is the cost of data, as well as a monthly subscription charge. These platforms serve Nigerians with local and foreign video content.
Meet Jason Njoku, CEO, iRokoTv, one of the early video-on-demand platforms for Nigerian movies. The iRokoTv brand has grown to become one of the largest platforms for Nollywood movies and TV series.
In a question and answer session, Jason took us through the iRokoTv journey.
Family background and work experience
Jason was born on 11th December, 1980 into a large family and brought up in London; though while growing up, he lived in Nigeria for some years. His mother raised him and his four brothers and sisters by herself, whilst working a full-time job.
The young Jason proceeded to the University of Manchester, where he bagged a degree in Chemistry and graduated with a 2.1 in 2004. Jason is an experienced entrepreneur with a series of success and failure stories.
According to Jason, iROKO was his 10th shot at entrepreneurship – all previous ventures had failed.
The birth of iRokoTv
The idea to start iRokoTv came after his mother sent him to buy some Nollywood movies in London and after several attempts, he could not find any movie to either buy or stream online. He saw a huge gap and opportunity – a global desire for content, but no easy means of accessing it.
This later prompted Jason to move back to Lagos and start research on the industry. He started acquiring hundreds of online licenses for Nollywood movies, to upload onto YouTube.
According to him:
“What informed my decision to move into the digitisation of Nollywood was the fact that there was a global desire for content. Everything was super informal and based on geography. Bringing the content online erased those borders in an instant.”
Challenges faced at the initial stage, and presently?
Considering the cost, low internet penetration and poor level of infrastructure in the country, one of the biggest challenges faced by the firm at the initial stage was that of uploading the video content onto the internet.
According to Jason, there was a time, when it was easier for him to purchase the online licenses of movies on hard drives, and then fly back to the UK, in order to upload them onto their site.
As was the case for most other start-ups in the country, logistics was a major challenge for Jason while starting.
“We were also doing something that no-one else on the continent had tried to do, which is to build an online community around and monetise Nollywood. So we had no blueprint for this, and finding people with the right experience to help us execute on our vision was also a major issue.”
How did he get funding at the initial stage?
IROKO was initially supported by Jason’s friend from university, Bastian Gotter. He was the company’s angel investor and, together with a couple of his colleagues, supported iROKO until it was in a position to attract institutional investors and in 2011, the company was approached by Tiger Global after an article came out about the platform in TechCrunch, and they took the platform through the first institutional investment round.
According to Jason, the platform was well received from its earliest days. He noted that the early metrics gave him the confidence to keep building and investing in the concept of bringing Nollywood online. However, building the platform itself came from a Series A investment, led by Tiger Global.
Building the iRoko tv team
Building the right team is important to the success of any organisation. Jason revealed that recruitment was primarily through his personal networks and friends from the University.
“I still look to personal networks to find the best people, although we also go through recommendations, we advertise across social platforms and through recruiters –we don’t have just one approach to sourcing talent.”
Advent of new entrants into the system?
Jason revealed that the platform is prepared for the challenge posed by new entrants into the market.
“In last couple of years, the platform has witnessed a growth in subscriber base in Lagos by rolling out an offline strategy with the iRoko Tv kiosks – where it connects with customers and assists them with downloading the app, subscribing, downloading content onto their phones for free, situated in key locations and bringing their product closer to customers. “
The platform currently has customers spread across the continent with customers from Africa representing 67% of the platform’s total subscriber base. With Nigeria accounting for 41.9%, French-speaking African countries account for 18.3% and English-speaking Africa accounts for 6.6%.
Jason is happily married to Mary Njoku, the film actress, and producer, and together they have three children. He spends his free time swimming and with his kids. He is also an avid reader of business-focused books.