Innovation – in filmmaking, storytelling – has long been a marker of Nollywood. Innovation has long marked distribution channels as well, and the layered conversation about the line between piracy, copyright law, and fulfilling public demand gets complicated.
Perhaps we’re closer to a solution to Nollywood’s 50 percent losses to piracy now with the rise of iROKO Partners, who fulfill demand with free video streaming while compensating producers.
Of the various sites over the years to offer streaming Nollywood videos, iROKO Partners has emerged as king attracting over 500,000 users to iROKOtv in just 6 months. In addition to iROKOtv, iROKO Partners runs several other sites that cater slightly differently – Nollywood Love, Yoruba Love, and iROKing (for music).
It’s quite simple to use; I got on today and was watching The Return of Jenifa in no time. And the model is legal, straightforward, and simple – users watch minimal and fairly unobtrusive advertisements to access free content (though iROKOtv has just added a optional $5/month service for premium content). The model was forged as a partnership with Youtube, and thus have that Youtube feel, though only previews are available on Nollywood Love’s Youtube Channel. Though it’s been called the ‘Netflix of Africa’ –and putting aside how tired the ‘X of Africa’ form is – it’s a model much more akin to HULU and HULUplus.
In an interview with CNN in 2011, Jason Njoku the founder of iROKO Partners, says it’s a sector where he sees much more growth. Currently, most watchers are from the Nigeran (and more generally, African) Diaspora where fast internet is cheap. This happens not only in the West, but in places like Malaysia, which ranks 6th in users of Nollywood Love. From this initial positioning, Njoku sees two opportunities for growth, both as high-speed internet becomes more accessible across the continent, and as Nollywood becomes more popular and accepted outside of the Diaspora.