Interview: Jason Njoku

What are the main challenges in delivering content to viewers in sub-Saharan Africa?

JASON NJOKU: We have found that the lack of affordable and reliable broadband internet has been one of the main challenges in reaching the viewership goals we would like to achieve. In 2015 we decided to de-emphasise the streaming platform of our products, and instead reconfigured our flagship brand to be a mobile-only and download-only product, focusing on the Android platform first.

As a result of these efforts, it is now possible for viewers to download a movie when they are connected to Wi-Fi and keep it on their phone to watch at their own convenience. This is far more feasible than having consumers try to rely upon a steady internet signal to stream long-format content. It provides a quick, cheap and convenient alternative to the still expensive method of using 3G and 4G mobile data to watch long videos.

When it comes to local media consumption, mobile data has made a slight difference in allowing more frequent consumption of our productions among certain consumer segments; however, the cost of viewing content is still too expensive for many people. Solving the issue of low internet penetration will require cooperation from telecoms companies, who need to work towards more affordable and reliable tariffs for the majority of the population.

How has Nollywood been impacted by the current foreign exchange situation?

NJOKU: It is undeniable that the production of content in Nollywood has been negatively affected by foreign exchange. Since the industry needs to import equipment, the fluctuations in the exchange rate have caused the price of production to increase quite significantly. Unsurprisingly, like most other companies in the industry, this has had an effect on us, and we have consequently had to make adjustments in our operations in order to keep the cost of production at an affordable level.

What can be done to improve the capture of audience and viewer data in Nigeria?

NJOKU: The structure of our platform, iROKOtv, allows us to capture a great deal of data, which is subsequently used to inform and shape our commissioning and purchasing decisions. Thanks to the metrics of the platform, we are able to monitor who is watching what, where and when.

Additionally, we invest time into speaking with our viewers via platforms such as live chat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and so on, though this is not standard practice in the industry. In Nigeria many companies do not invest enough time or money in customer service and relations, and the industry could definitely improve in this area. I think that reliable and transparent box office data will help paint a wider and more detailed picture of the market.

In which ways are local filmmakers financed?

NJOKU: It is pretty tough to access financing for film production in Nigeria, especially for those starting out in the industry. The budget size needed to produce high-quality content – which includes the cost of a technical crew, post-production and cast members – is growing, and without a track record of delivering profitable movies, it can be very hard for newcomers to raise the necessary funding. However, it is not impossible, and talent does rise to the top. While it is important for filmmakers to forge connections, the same is true in all film industries, not just in Nollywood. Our own ROK Studios, for instance, works with a number of different producers and writers, developing long-term working relationships with many of them. In addition, the company likes to source young and up-and-coming talent, so it invests in promising first-time projects from time to time.