On one Friday afternoon in late November 2011, TechLoy exclusively reported that Iroko Partners, the company that brought NollywoodLove on YouTube was about to launch a new platform for Nollywood movies called iROKOtv to the public on December 1.
A year later, the Nollywood movies streaming service has become the world’s largest distributor of Nollywood movies acquiring licences of more than 5,000 movie titles, raising over $10 million in funding through its parent company which employs about 100 staff and generates millions of dollars in revenues.
As the company turns one today, we celebrate with them and take you through its journey over the past year in becoming one of the most successful and profitable Internet companies to come out of Africa yet.
In December 2011, the movies streaming site, iROKOtv.com went live albeit a bit buggy with some data input errors, yet allowed users to watch Nollywood movies for free online.
During the same month, iROKOtv signed up brand ambassadors including Nollywood icon, Patience Ozokwor popularly known as Mama G as its first ambassador and hinted that it would announce 11 of the hottest super-stars in Nollywood who are equally endorsing the movies platform.
In January 2012, the site recorded significant growth in its first month of launch, attracting about 1 million visitors and about 5 million page views with about 20,000 unique views daily during the month of December. What was interesting is the fact that the company achieved these remarkable results without any marketing campaign.
Amidst these early success stories, the company’s founder & CEO, Jason Njoku said that he was still terrified of failure while sharing in the guest post for TechLoy the inspiring story about how he failed for 5 years before succeeding with his recent online ventures.
Following the launch of its Ambassador programme which features popular Nollywood stars, the site released a series of video adverts from the best of Nollywood including Tonto Dike, Mercy Johnson and Jim Iyke. The videos introduced iROKOtv as a new method of watching Nigerian movies online and invited users to sign up and start watching.
By the end of January 2012, iROKOtv announced that it has crossed 100,000 users since its launch, in less than two months, adding about 1800 users on average per day. It also revealed that a total of over 1 million hours was spent watching movies on the platform which means over 70 million minutes were spent during that period watching movies on the platform.
A few days later, its parent company, Iroko Partners redesigned its website that boldly communicates the company’s emergence as the largest digital distributor of Nigerian entertainment globally attracting 2.7 million unique visitors monthly from 178 countries worldwide. Earlier, the company had been listed by TechLoy as one of Nigeria’s fastest growing Internet companies of 2011 and its founder, Jason Njoku was TechLoy‘s Person Of The Year 2011.
In March 2012, its parent company, Iroko Partners raised $8 million in cash from two rounds led by Tiger Global, a New York-based privately-owned investment firm with investments in emerging markets.
In April, Iroko Partners filed a complaint against a Ghana-based online movies site called IrokoTVmovies.com over its alleged trademark infringement with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center. Techloy learned about this arbitration case in October 2012.
Later that month, TechLoy had an exclusive interview with Jason Njoku who told us how his company’s awesome Internet offerings attracted funding from a $9 billion venture and private equity firm as well as some of the company’s figures and future plans.
In May 2012, iROKOtv teamed up with Rancard Solutions to launch the first Nollywood/celebrity news distribution service via SMS and later in that same month, it became the first Internet company in Nigeria to adopt Facebook’s Social Graph to allow users share and rate what they’re watching on iROKOtv via Facebook.
In the same month, the company announced it would start charging its users to watch movies on the platform starting from July 1. While there were mixed reactions following this announcement, the company further explained that the subscription fee of $5/month (about N800/month) would only apply to Nollywood movies released in 2012, while other movies can be watched for free.
By June 2012, over half a million users where already registered on the platform, while adding about 5,000 unique users daily. Interestingly, about 80% of its total registered users were active on the platform, which implies that about 400,000 users actively logged into the site on a monthly basis.
Back then, it was estimated that iROKOtv grossed about $1.2 million in revenues monthly, assuming that about 250,000 users subscribed to its premium movie service at $5 per month.
On July 2, 2012, the platform unveiled a breathtaking beautiful new look and feel with an incredibly easy to use interface, although slightly buggy for a few days. It also launched its subscription service calling it iROKOtv+ which offered access to over 200 brand new and exclusive Nollywood movies released in 2012 for just $5 a month.
That same month, it was reported that its parent company, Iroko Partners was threatening to sue Afrinolly, a mobile app focused on Nigeria’s entertainment industry for N100 million over copyright infringement.
In mid-July, it was reported that Swedish VC firm, Kinnevik has backed its parent company, Iroko Partners with a fresh $2 million in funding. At that time, its 2-week old subscription service had signed up about 5,000 paying subscribers and the service had about 560,000 registered users.
Later that same month, it released a sneak peek into what its iPad and iPhone apps would look like which elicited a lot of excitement from its fans who can’t wait to start watching Nollywood movies on their iPads and iPhones.
On August 18, iROKOtv’s founder & CEO, Jason Njoku and fast-rising Nollywood actress, Mary Remmy both tied the knot at a high-profile, celebrity-packed, star-studded wedding ceremony at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Festac, Lagos.
The couple met about two years ago on a movie set and were engaged for about six months before getting married. Later in the same month, Jason Njoku was awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year (Technology)” by The Future Awards.
On August 31, iROKOtv+ premiered the all-star BlackBerry Babes Season 2 movie which starred The Future Awards ‘Best Actress of the Year’, Tonto Dike, Big Brother Africa 2011 Winner, Karen Igho and very funny actress Eniola Badmus.
Later that month, it was reported that iROKOtv earned itself competition from a not-so-popular ‘Google-affiliated’ Nollywood movies streaming service called Real Nolly which was launched as a YouTube channel in March 2012 and claiming to have digital distribution rights to hundreds of Nigeria’s hugely popular Nollywood films.
In October, Techloy learned and exclusively reported that Iroko Partners had filed a complaint against a Ghana-based online movies site called IrokoTVmovies.com over its alleged trademark infringement with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center. Later that same month, the company announced its legal victory against IrokoTVmovies.com over its trademark infringement.
In November, IROKO Partners teamed up with South Africa’s GoMetro to take its entertainment content to South Africa, thus making Nigerian music available for free to SA commuters.
Speaking on the iROKOtv’s remarkable first year, CEO Jason Njoku said that the past year “has seen us bring Nollywood to the Diaspora, whose thirst for movies seems unquenchable”.
While pointing out that its biggest markets are in the West, dominated by the US and UK, he added that it will be “focusing attention back on Africa and figuring out ways we can bring this awesome content to new audiences.”
“We’ve had an awesome first year at iROKOtv and we’ve got great plans in the pipeline for 2013, including adding more films to our library and growing our global audience”, he added.