“… Netflix being in Nigeria has zero impact on iROKO and our vision for the future.” That was Jason Njoku, founder of Nigerian streaming platform iROKOtv when Netflix expanded to Nigeria earlier in the month. He is not the only one who does not see Netflix’s presence in Africa’s largest economy as a threat; France’s Canal Plus shares his belief. The French film and television studio, together with existing investor Kinnevik AB are investing a total of $19 million in the company.
Kinnevik has always been a believer in the iROKOtv business model, which made it provide part of the $8 million funding raised by the VoD platform in 2013. But Canal Plus’s investment at this period of a continent-wide Netflix fever, comes as a surprise to many and for Jason Njoku, the Series E funding was more than just another round. “This time it was very different. We have our first strategic investor, someone with an expressed interest in acquiring the entire company, were we to reach the potentials ahead of us, yet at the same time flexible enough to enable me to build the NASDAQ-listed company I have always dreamed of,” he wrote in a new blog post.
The new investment is both in content development and in capital funding. But after months of difficult cost saving decisions, Njoku’s focus is on cash flow positivity and backing its product and engineering teams in both Lagos and New York. iROKOtv aims to produce at least 300 hours of original content in 2016. This will be doubled by 2018.
While he focuses on ensuring business success, Njoku is more focused on the future. By 2025, half of sub-Saharan Africa’s population will have access to the internet, according to McKinsey. Of the projected 1 billion population of the continent, 360 million will be connecting to the internet via smartphones. iROKOtv will key into this growth. The VoD platform which has many of its 65,000 in the diaspora is increasing focus on Africa. It has developed its app to stream movies on low bandwidth to ensure it reaches the market its major competitor Netflix may be missing.
Jason Njoku, armed with the new funding, is ready to take things to the next level.
“The moat we have created around iROKO is incomparable in Nigerian content history,” he writes, asserting: “We are no longer a startup. We are defining the future of Nollywood”.
“Looking forward to 2020, I know the world will change. I am aware that the elephants have entered the field. In this case, we are retreating to our core. Focusing on the things only iROKO can do in Nigeria, in Nollywood, at scale, then extending that and bringing content our viewers globally love closer to them. Over the next few months, you will see what that actually means. What localisation really means.”
CFO of Canal+ Overseas says: “We congratulate Jason and all the iROKO team and investors for their outstanding achievement so far and we are proud to partner for the scale-up in French-Speaking Africa, with clear ambitions and the means to reach them.”