iROKOtv: delivering Nollywood content to the world

Author:Catherine Jewell
Position::Communications Division, WIPO
SUMMARY

Nollywood films are now available on a screen near you. Increasingly, distribution is moving online, giving Nigeria’s movie industry global reach.

 
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Leading the way is iROKOtv. In just seven years, it has become a global media platform, boasting the world’s largest online catalogue of Nollywood films, a clutch of TV channels and viewers in 178 countries. And it is also becoming a major producer of Nollywood content.

Tope Lucas, the company’s Legal Counsel and Head of Content Acquisition, talks about its explosive growth, the role that intellectual property plays in its fortunes, and its plans for the future.

How did iROKOtv get started?

Our CEO, Jason Njoku, came up with the idea of starting a Nollywood film distribution business in 2010 at his family home in Manchester, United Kingdom. His mother was a great fan of Nollywood movies, but they were in short supply. The only way you could watch them at that time was on DVDs that people brought back to the UK from Nigeria or via odd pirate sites with low-quality films. Jason came over to Nigeria and met with producers to see if they were interested in putting their films online. They were hesitant at first. They had been “burned” in the past, and when they were presented with a genuine contract that would enable them to be paid for the use of their work online it sounded too good to be true. But eventually they warmed to the idea, and thanks to that approach we are where we are today. iROKOtv started out as a YouTube company. We were the first company to put Nollywood content online legally. Then, in 2011, we moved to our own platform, iROKOtv.com, and began licensing in and developing our own content.

What services do you offer?

At first, we operated both a freemium and a subscription model, but now almost everything is based around subscriptions. Just over a year ago we expanded our TV presence and we now have partnerships with various TV stations. We also distribute content for in-flight entertainment and to TV stations in a number of French-speaking African countries.

Where do you source your content?

We recently started producing our own content. It has been challenging but super-successful. Over the past year, ROK Studios, the company’s creative arm, has produced or commissioned 90 percent of the content featured on iROKOtv.com. We own the rights to that content.

iROKOtv has shown the world that Africa has a lot of great content and many talented producers.

We also have iROKO Global, which was originally established to handle distribution of third-party content licensed by iROKOtv from various content producers, but these days iROKO...

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