How Iroko TV is Maximising Its First-Mover Advantage

For a relatively new company focusing on online film distribution, one of the greatest challenges it might have ordinarily faced is how to raise sufficient funds to purchase digital distribution licenses from film producers. Added to this would have been the concern of how to charge sufficiently reasonable fees – or adopt a suitably ingenious business model – that attracts enough paying customers or advertisements to break even and make profits. This is in view of the idea that film distribution licenses are typically expensive in countries with a well-developed and highly monetized film industry.


Fortunately for Njoku and iROKO Partners, their position as first movers in the online film distribution subsector means that they enjoyed the unique privilege of negotiating workable agreements regarding film distribution rights. Since online film distribution did not exist in Nigeria before the coming of iROKO partners, the company did not have much difficulty convincing the production houses that agreeing to mutually beneficial terms to create a new revenue line for producers was a win-win situation for all parties. Consequently, Njoku’scompany uses much of the capital it raises to acquire digital distribution licenses from movie producers, paying between $1,000 and $25,000 per movie. The company has also enjoyed support from many of the most influential stakeholders in the industry, including popular actors and directors, and this has helped entrench its credibility.


iROKO Partners’ first mover advantage also helped it create multiple income streams that were made possible by the enthusiastic response it generated from customers that were happy to finally have the opportunity to access Nigerian films from the comfort of their homes.  Up to 90 percent of the company online content is free, supported by a constant stream of advertisements. However, the company also runs a subscription service, iROKOtv PLUS, which charges subscribers $5 a month to access the latest Nigerian movies. With over 100,000 registered subscribers and millions of content viewers, iROKOtv has established itself as the main source of Nollywood movies on the internet, and now has over 5,000 films in its online catalogue.


Iroko’s Major Keys to Success

Jason Njoku, Iroko TV’s dynamic founder, cites the simplicity of the idea as a major reason for the success of the business. “Nollywood is one of the largest film industries to emerge and definitely one of the most successful ones, and Nollywood films have been very popular from the beginning”, he says. “The only problem I recognized was that people around the world could not easily gain access to this popular content from Africa, and I sensed the viability of making a business from solving this problem”. Njoku and his team simply took content that was globally popular but difficult to access and made it widely available to anyone who has an Internet connection.


Although iROKO Partners’ emerged out of Njoku’s recognition of a glaring opportunity, its success within a few years is attributable to the focus and resourcefulness of its founder, and the passion, hard work, dedication and business expertise of its management and staff. In spite of the roadblocks and difficulties Njoku and his partner encountered in the early stages of the enterprise, they persisted because of the strong conviction that the business would eventually become profitable, since there was sufficient content to meet the massive demand for Nollywood films. Accordingly, within three months in business, iROKO Partners broke even and built up very popular cultural asset – an entertainment library that people around the world wanted to have access to. “No one had ever really marketed Nollywood as an entity – it’s a really fragmented industry. So, we came in, learned about the business, and pioneered digital marketing and distribution as we now have it”, says Njoku.


Since the iROKOtv depends heavily on revenues from advertisements, Njoku adopts a strategy that ensures that advertisers have access to the category of consumers they are searching for. In this regard, advertisements targeted at diaspora-based and local consumers are delivered to viewers in the respective locations through Internet Protocol technologies, thereby expanding opportunities for the company to gain more advertising clients and boost its revenues. Creative thinking is also a central feature of the company’s management. According to Njoku, he and the top management echelon constantly strategize on how to create new revenue streams and expand the scope of the iROKO Partners’ operations.


For a company that focuses on film distribution, iROKO Partners realize the importance of maintaining close relations with key stakeholders in the movie industry, including actors. Indeed, a major marketing strategy employed by the company to entrench its position and gain greater popularity is to use well-known actors as its brand ambassadors. The company recently signed up Uche Jumbo, one of the most popular actresses in the industry as its brand ambassador, and this has helped project the image of the iROKO Partners as one strongly associated with film industry….

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