“An idea can change your life!” I am sure that all of us have heard of that quote sometime or the other – but how many of us have actually imbibed it? So, today as I am in conversation with an intense young man, who is changing the face of Nigerian online movie streaming with his idea, perseverance and patience, I am looking at a man who is changing lives with his idea. I am speaking of the CEO of iROKO Partners, Jason Nioku.
Being distinct with iROKOtv
iROKOtv at the outset may appear as the African version of Netflix or Amazon TV. Started on 1st December 2011, it has recently completed four successful years with subscribers primarily across North America and Western Europe, with Nigeria being its largest market in the Africa.
So how is iROKOtv different from other online movie streaming platforms like Netflix, which offers much more in terms of global entertainment?
The answer to that, as Jason explained, though obvious is not simple. With the proper use of technology, especially Android smartphones, the purpose of iROKOtv is to bring the African magic to the masses at affordable prices on their smartphones. With its present version allowing download only, iROKOtv aims to transform the manner in which African cinema and entertainment is received globally.
And that is not an easy challenge.
To begin with, there’s the issue of subscribers and payments. At present iROKOtv can only boast of tens of thousands of subscribers, but their ambition is to have a Tier 1 subscriber base in Africa by reaching the one million mark! This is definitely not going to be easy considering the niche iROKOtv focuses on and the competition already present in the market.
But that’s the growth challenge – iROKOtv faces more obvious difficulties.
The first being the inconsistent subscriber base, with subscribers churning in and out of the billing cycle; and second, is the question of sustainability.
Working on Obstacles
iROKOtv has definitely brought about a paradigm shift in the manner of online streaming of African music and cinema. The market stimulus has been responded to, but the challenges are also present and growing.
So how does iROKOtv plan to achieve its business goal of 1 million subscribers considering present difficulties?
The challenge of payments directly influences the subscriber base and is dependent on the type of economy one is serving in. Nigeria, unlike its counterparts in Western Europe or America, is largely a “cash” based economy. People want to see what they are paying for – probably the one poignant reason why eCommerce has not been able to flourish in Nigeria – because that’s what the consumers are comfortable with in terms of a payment platform. It’s not only true for iROKOtv but all the other bigger market players as well, that receive cash payments from 80% of their subscribers.
That’s the real picture. But there is also the other side of the coin – the side that makes impeccable use of technology, namely in the form of banking apps and mobile money services!
And that brings into question the ability to identify the blocks and find solutions to it. A major obstacle in being able to identify an alternative payment platform is the competition received from the MTNs and Airtels, who either want to put iROKOtv out of business as they have their own version of online streaming TV, or charge high taxes for using their platform, which can exceed up to 80% of revenues! That’s not an easy challenge, considering that it will require support of the entire system functioning here.
As a banker, I can only say that they have probably not gone to the right banker for aid – by which we definitely mean ourselves!
And then there is the challenge of having customers spending more on their subscription plans – something that dictates sustainability.
iROKOtv distinguishes themselves by their content. In order to get the best of their services, subscribes must consume about 1GB data. But research and survey demonstrates that the best one is using is roughly 200-300MB of data. So how does one push subscribers to consume more? While the challenge is intense, the best iROKOtv can do here is educate people through their apps and tools, to help them access equally great content at affordable rates.
There’s of course the option to collaborate with bigger players, and give consumers more to use with their 1GB data, but the trick here is to be able to get the right partner. In collaborating with bigger players, in most cases it’s not a win-win situation. So that real challenge once again is to avoid making silly deals that will eventually not reap the results expected.
As Jason emphasized, this is the business they understand and can be a part of. So let’s not get coerced into doing something else.
My conversation did discuss a few other things, but that’s a topic on its own altogether. In a nutshell what today’s conversation was all about is to being the difference as we are doing our best to be at Diamond Bank. At iROKOtv personnel and roles will change, but what they are doing is building a brand that has a mission and vision and is currently taking the right steps for a sustainable future.
That’s something I am surely interested to look at!