Africa: How innovative Nigerian brand iROKO TV started


For decades, Nigerians assumed only Africans had a thirst and appetite for Nollywood movies.

How wrong we were! (The largest iRoko TV traffic feeds come from U.S, Uk, India, the Caribbean and far away Australia.)

Jason and Bastian met as students at the University of Manchester, the friends soon struck an understanding that led to the establishment of the largest licensors and distributors of Nollywood movies anywhere in the world – iRoko TV.

In 2011, Jason needed to get some Nollywood movies for his mother whom he was living with at that time. Accordingly he stepped out to look for distributors within the international community but found none.

Erstwhile when Nigerians in the Diaspora request for copies of Nollywood movies it was normally packed in the compact disc, sealed and couriered to them. As far as Jason was concerned, that method was not effective, in the 21st century there must be a better way.

He boarded a flight to Lagos and immediately started negotiating with Nollywood producers on the plausibility of purchasing licenses to place their movies online. It was alien to them but Jason’s explanation was so strong it made sane sense to them.

Since no one had seriously considered the internet as a reasonable channel for distribution, it was relatively cheap for Jason to obtain online license rights from producers and marketers to distribute their movies. Knowing he was on to something really big, he bought some exclusive movie rights and gradually built an impressive catalogue of in-demand Nollywood movies.

Jason was so sure that people, especially Nigerian’s in the Diaspora enjoyed Nollywood movies but just couldn’t find a way of viewing it.

When Jason returned to Manchester he negotiated with YouTube in Germany, he used that platform to stream the licensed Nollywood movies for free on a channel – Nollywoodlove. And in less than a year the channel attracted more than one million views from over 200 countries.

With a simple idea (coined from a difficulty he had), a few hundred dollars and a free internet platform, Jason put African content on the global map.

Following their spectacular success, a U.S based private equity firm; Tiger Global Management made a two-round investment of $8million.

With the strong backing iRoko TV was launched as a standalone and independent African movie streaming website. In July 2012, the business attracted an additional investment of $2million under a Swedish hedge fund-backed arrangement.

Occasioned by the huge traffic on the website companies began approaching iRoko TV for advert placement. This enabled iRoko TV to operate on a freemium model while advert placements kept the currencies flowing in, recording a growth rate of 397% between 2014 and 2015.

“If a man will begin in certainties he shall end in doubts, but if he will be content to begin in doubt he shall end in certainties.”
He admonishes Nigerians to be bold and take that step; you never can tell what the result becomes. At iRoko it’s is all about being bold. – Jason Njoku

By Eizu Uwaoma

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