1st International Acquisition In Nollywood’s Billion-Dollar Industry: IROKOtv Sells Film Studio To French Company

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Nollywood

Mary Njoku, director general of
Nigerian film studio Rok. Photo – Rok

Six years after launching, Nollywood film studio and TV network ROK has been acquired by French audiovisual group Canal+.

ROK owns a large library of films and animation series in Nigeria and produces movies and TV series for distribution platforms. Canal+ plans to expand in Africa after losing subscribers in France as competition heats up from streaming services Netflix and Amazon, Reuters reported.

This is the first international acquisition in Nollywood’s billion-dollar industry. The film studio, owned by Nigerian video-on-demand platform IROKOtv, was sold to Canal+ for an undisclosed fee, according to a press release.

Launched in 2013 by actress and producer Mary Njoku, ROK has produced more than 540 Nollywood movies and 25 original TV series.

Its TV network reaches 15 million subscribers using satellite TV companies DSTV and GOTV in Africa, according to the ROK.

Nollywood — the Nigerian film industry — employs more than 1 million people and has grown fast due to the ability of under-pressure film crews to shoot a full-length feature in a week, according to Forbes.

Producing more than 50 movies per week, Nollywood has the second largest output in the world. Only India’s movie industry, Bollywood, produces more.

Nollywood is the biggest part of Nigeria’s arts and entertainment sector, which contributed $663 million or 2.3 percent to Nigeria’s GDP in 2016.

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IROKOtv was founded in 2010 by Mary’s husband, Jason Njoku, and has raised more than $45 million in venture funding across its platforms, Crunchbase reports.

Mary is expected to stay on as director-general under the Canal+ acquisition.

Nollywood content on Canal+

Canal+ Group is a French film and TV studio and distributor that is owned and controlled by Vivendi, a Paris-based mass media conglomerate with interests in TV and film, gaming and publishing.

The French company said it will provide additional resources for ROK without disrupting the Nigerian company’s current processes, IOL reports.

ROK is expected to produce Nollywood content to deliver movies and original TV series for Canal+ Group’s audiences.

The newly acquired Nigerian film studio will continue to be based in Lagos. Canal+ said it plans to give Mary the freedom to continue her creative process.

“We are acquiring the talent of Mary,” Canal+ chief content officer Fabrice Faux told Techcrunch.

“We will provide administrative support, finance and equipment, but otherwise it is our intention to give Mary maximum autonomy and creative freedom,” he added.

Speaking on the acquisition, Mary said, “ROK has captured the imagination of millions of movie fans, and they have truly supported us as we’ve grown the company to celebrate and enjoy our African culture.

“I’m excited to be taking our platform on the next stage of its journey with Canal+ Group, who share our passion for creating original content, supporting new talent and together, we have ambitious plans for the future,” she said in the press release.

Social media reaction to the acquisition has been positive, with most people making congratulatory comments about the deal while expressing excitement about Nollywood content reaching a global audience.