In recent years Nigeria has earned a reputation as one of the fastest growing media markets in Africa. Over the past few decades the nation’s large population – currently estimated at around 170m, according to the World Bank – and rapidly expanding middle class have driven demand for new newspapers, magazines, radio and television programmes, music, film and, more recently, digital media of all sorts. The music industry and the Nigerian film industry – colloquially known as “Nollywood” – have become significant cultural institutions in their own right, earning fans throughout Africa and further afield. With this in mind, these segments are increasingly considered to be major potential generators of employment and, broadly, economic growth. “This is one of the most diverse and freest media markets in the world,” Eluem Emeka Izeze, the managing director of The Guardian, a Nigerian newspaper that is published daily in Lagos, told OBG. “More people are reading the news and other media than ever before, and most of them are doing so in digital formats.”

Oversight & Regulation

A variety of public and private entities are involved in regulating Nigeria’s various media segments. The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), which was established in 1957 as the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, has a mandate to “licence, monitor and regulate an environment that encourages investment and [the] development of quality programming … which competes favourably in the global information society”.

In 1992 the federal government set out to liberalise the radio and television segments, which involved overhauling the NBC code. Another update to the code in mid-2012 brought the NBC in line with best practices and international standards. The 2012 revision was the most recent of four NBC code updates. Recently the commission has been responsible for managing a handful of new initiatives, including an ongoing digital migration programme and several other content development projects. Other regulatory and advisory agencies active in Nigeria’s media and advertising segments include the Nigerian Press Council, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the National Film and Video Censors Board, and the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, among others. The NCC, which has a mandate to manage Nigeria’s communications segment, has played an increasingly prominent role in the field over the past half decade, mostly as a result of the rise of digital media distribution networks in recent years.

Hard Copy

Nigeria’s diverse population has driven demand for a variety of daily, weekly and quarterly news and public interest publications. The nation has a rich history in print journalism. Since the first newspaper was established by a British missionary in 1859, the press has played a prominent role in political life. As early as the 1880s some Lagos-based publications were calling for the equal treatment and representation of Nigerians and Europeans, while in the 1930s many newspapers were calling for Nigerian independence.

According to the BBC, as of late 2013 Nigeria was home to more than 100 regularly published national and local titles, a handful of which are sold elsewhere in the region. Nigeria’s largest newspapers by circulation include The Guardian, This Day, Punch, Tribune, Vanguard, BusinessDay, Daily Trust and The Sun. Almost all of the country’s leading newspapers are privately owned, and readership unsurprisingly varies significantly. Outlets like BusinessDay target financial and economic audiences, while the Daily Trust has the bulk of its readership in the country’s north.


The print segment currently faces a number of challenges. The high cost of electricity, which is a hurdle for many industries, is particularly problematic for newspapers, a majority of which operate their own printing presses. Similarly, the distribution of newspapers throughout the country is an ongoing challenge. Most publications are located in or near Lagos, the country’s largest city. “Distributing the paper throughout the country is one of our largest expenses on an annual basis,” Izeze told OBG. “This is one of the only countries in the world where newspapers are distributed by plane, which is exorbitantly expensive.” In an effort to cut costs in this area, in recent years many publications have worked to open new satellite presses in other cities. “We recently started printing on a new press in Abuja, and we are in the process of putting one in Port Harcourt as well,” Izeze told OBG.

Since transparency over readership figures is also a challenge, given the propensity for multiple readers to use a single copy, and subscription figures are not independently verified, tracking the audience for print in Nigeria is difficult. As with most other print markets around the world, one trend has been noticeable: Nigerian newspapers have faced declining revenues in recent years as a result of the steady expansion of the internet. Consequently, most leading publications operate websites where they post some their content for free and the rest (or all) behind a paywall. “We have set up a site aimed at mobile phone users,” said Izeze. “It does not generate any revenue at all at the moment, but we can see the potential in this area.”

Dialed In

Radio, which is free-to-air and available throughout Nigeria, is perhaps the most popular type of media among the general population. Public and private broadcasts alike are available in a wide variety of languages and dialects. The country is home to nearly 150 radio stations in total, including more than 80 publicly owned stations and a steadily growing number of private and university stations. Additionally, the BBC and a handful of other foreign stations have local broadcasting operations in the country.

The government-owned Nigerian Broadcasting Service was set up in 1950. In 1978 the organisation was reorganised and rebranded as the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN). Until the liberalisation of the broadcast sector in the early 1990s, the FRCN had a monopoly on the radio segment. Today the FRCN continues to operate nearly 40 public stations nationwide and online, broadcasting a variety of news, sports and entertainment content in 15 languages. The FRCN also operates the Voice of Nigeria, the nation’s shortwave external news service, which is broadcast throughout the continent. According to self-reported data, FRCN broadcasts reach more than 100m listeners.

The private radio segment has grown rapidly since the NBC issued private broadcasting licenses in the early 1990s. As of late 2013 Nigeria was home to around 25 private radio operators, including the Daar Communications Group, which operates RayPower FM station, in addition to Faaji FM, a major Yoruba-language station, and Freedom Radio, operating out of Kano Star FM; Rhythm FM; Steam Broadcasting; and Hot FM, among others. In early 2013 the NBC announced that it planned to issue licenses for the formation of community radio stations. As of early 2015 the licenses had yet to be issued, but the commission has reaffirmed its commitment to the plan and promised to release more details. “Nigeria is without viable community radio stations and newspapers,” said Lai Oso, the dean of Lagos State University, in a speech delivered on World Press Freedom Day in May 2014. “We need to appeal to the federal government to grant operating licences to communities to establish their own radio stations and newspapers.”


Though it remains less popular than radio among consumers and advertisers, television is a major sector in terms of both reach and production activity in Nigeria. According to the most recent available data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in 2011 some 45% of the country’s population had access to television. The biggest stumbling block to expanding viewership remains cost – a common obstacle in most emerging markets – as most Nigerians cannot afford to purchase a television set. According to NBS data, just over 13% of the population as a whole owned a TV, and both access to television and TV ownership levels are higher in urban areas than rural areas. The great majority of viewers watch terrestrial free-to-air broadcasts, many of which are managed by public entities The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), which was formed by the military government in the mid-1970s, is the country’s largest broadcaster, and purports to be the single largest television broadcaster in Africa. The NTA has state and regional affiliates in all of Nigeria’s states and the federal capital authority. According to the authority’s own data, NTA broadcasts are viewed by more than 50m individuals in total.


Since liberalisation in the early 1990s, several major private satellite and cable television firms have set up in Nigeria. While only 10-15% of the country’s population is estimated to be able to afford a satellite dish or cable services, this figure is set to rise in the coming years. MultiChoice, a South African firm, launched its Digital Satellite Television (DS tv) pay service in the mid-1990s. Today DS tv is one of Nigeria’s most popular pay-TV stations. Other major players include StarTimes, a Chinese firm, which partnered with the NTA to launch NTA Star TV in 2010; Galaxy Television; and the Silverbird Group, among others.

As of early 2014 the majority of Nigeria’s television companies broadcasted analogue signals, but this is expected to change in the coming years. The NBC has been working to facilitate a switch to digital broadcasting since 2006. While digital migration was initially scheduled to finish by June 2015, more recently this deadline has been delayed (see Telecoms chapter). Indeed, due to the high cost of digital set-top boxes for analogue televisions, most local broadcasters do not foresee the digital migration process being completed until at least the end of 2016 (see analysis).


The development of Nigeria’s booming film industry over the past two decades is one of the country’s major success stories. The establishment of a domestic film sector began in the early 1990s, when a handful of local filmmakers set out to produce movies on the cheap, using inexpensive off-the-shelf video cameras and other equipment. Since, Nollywood has grown rapidly. In 2009 Nigeria surpassed the US to become the second-largest film industry in the world in terms of volume of movies produced, after India.

While Nollywood is regarded as one of Africa’s major cultural institutions and, following the 2014 GDP re-basing, a key economic contributor, hard data on Nollywood is tough to come by, however a recent report by the Nigerian Export-Import Bank estimated that Nollywood generated as much as $590m in annual revenues in 2014 alone. According to recent estimates from both foreign press and local authorities, between 1000 and 2500 films are produced in Nigeria on an annual basis. Based on reports compiled by Iroko Partners, a Lagos-based digital media distribution and research firm, the industry earns around $800m in revenues on an annual basis. In line with the sector’s humble beginnings, today the great majority of Nollywood films today are made on extremely low budgets – between $15,000 and $50,000 on average – and released straight to DVD, where they are distributed throughout Africa. Nollywood films are generally shot and produced in extremely brief periods of time, from 6-15 days. With these constraints in mind, the quality of most Nollywood films is generally fairly low by international standards.

“You’ll find that we’re having to make do,” Olu Jacobs, a Nollywood actor, told local media in April 2014. “We’re not happy because the finished product doesn’t have the finish that it should have.”

Improving the quality of Nollywood films is an ongoing challenge. Perhaps most importantly, financing is hard to come by and expensive, even for established filmmakers. Most local banks consider movies to be a risky investment, and there are few other commercial sources of funding available. Nigeria’s limited power and transport infrastructure also means that film sets must be powered by generators, which run on expensive diesel yet must be placed far enough away to not be picked up by microphones. The lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework for the industry is also a major issue. A draft Motion Picture Practitioners Council bill, which was introduced in 2006, has been stuck in legislative limbo since then. In recent years the government and a number of private sector organisations have introduced a handful of other initiatives aimed at improving access to financing and overcoming other challenging issues in the film sector, but a comprehensive overhaul has yet to come (see analysis).

Logged In

As of January 2014 Nigeria was home to nearly 56m internet users, according to data published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN’s information and communications technology arm (see IT chapter). This figure has more than doubled since 2009, when the country was home to around 24m internet users. The rapid growth of internet-savvy Nigerians has had a major impact on the domestic media and advertising industries.

Digital Movie

As previously mentioned, newspapers and many other print outlets have reported declining hard copy subscription rates and a jump in web traffic in recent years. Monetising online readers, the majority of who access the internet via mobile handsets, remains a key challenge, not just in Nigeria but around the world. The rise of digital technologies has the potential to transform Nigeria’s film and music industries. Currently both sectors rely almost entirely on the distribution of physical media, namely DVDs and CDs. Shipping these items by truck to remote areas – not to mention other countries in Africa – is a major expense, due to high costs and poor infrastructure. With this in mind, many local players have worked to build up their digital distribution capabilities in recent years.

Iroko Partners, which has been active since 2010, owns the rights to a large selection of Nigerian music and Nollywood films, which the firm offers online to paying subscribers. This model, which is similar to Western digital music services like Spotify and Rdio, for example, is relatively underdeveloped in Nigeria thus far. But given the rate of growth in internet use in the country and rising incomes in many areas, there is considerable potential for future expansion in this area.


Nigeria’s advertising industry is currently one of the largest in sub-Saharan Africa by most metrics. The country’s sizeable media-savvy population, combined with many longstanding media properties and steadily rising purchasing power, have contributed to rising ad spending by domestic and international firms over the past decade, in particular.

The private sector spent N125bn ($762.5m) on advertising in 2013, according to Celey Okogun, CEO of Novelpotta Y&N, a frontline ad agency, speaking at a media briefing in 2014. Some N66.12bn ($403.3m) was for television spots, N23.75bn ($144.9m) for outdoor advertising, N23.5bn ($143.5m) on print media, and N22.5bn ($137.3m) on radio. This does not take into account government advertising.

Expenditure by the private sector in 2013 is up from the year before: according to MediaReach OMD, a local industry research firm, in 2012 above-the-line ad spend (which includes television, radio, print and outdoor, or billboard) totalled N91.85bn ($560.3m), up from less than N18m ($109,800) in 2003.

Meeting Demand

In 2012 telecommunications firms topped the list of advertisers in Nigeria. The country’s four mobile network operators, MTN Nigeria, Etisalat Nigeria, Globacom and Airtel Nigeria, accounted for around 17% of total above-the-line spending in 2012, down slightly from 19% in 2011.

Other major sources of advertising in 2012 included entertainment, leisure and tourism-related firms, which accounted for 5.4% of total spending in the country; and lager beer companies, with 5.2% of the total. Advertising spend from telecoms companies and banks is expected to increase in 2015, along with political campaign spending around the elections.

Nigeria is home to more than 100 licensed advertising firms, in addition to a substantial number of unlicensed firms, the latter of which carry out work on an informal basis, largely for smaller firms. As the largest country in Africa by population and, as of early 2014, by GDP, Nigeria is increasingly considered to be one of Africa’s key investment destinations among multinationals, which has been a boon for major advertising firms. Many of the world’s largest ad agencies are active in the country, including Saatchi & Saatchi, Ogilvy, the Grey Group, DDB, STB-McCann and SO&U, among others. Additionally, over the past two decades a substantial number of indigenous players have become major players, including Insight Communications, AfroMedia, iNoveMedia and Markcelenz, among others.


Nigerian media and advertising firms face a variety of challenges. As a result of the nation’s poor transport infrastructure, distributing physical media – including newspapers and magazines – is expensive and unreliable. While internet penetration is rising, access is still limited, meaning print outlets continue to rely heavily on hard copies for viewership.

Indeed, while a steadily increasing number of Nigerians access news, music and other types of entertainment online, the high cost and low level of public access to broadband internet in most regions – particularly outside Lagos state and other urban areas – is a major hurdle to the long-term expansion of digital media consumption. Production costs are also high for print, where equipment and materials must be imported, and accessing financing for Nollywood is similarly tough.

Despite these issues, the favourable fundamentals of the market mean the upside potential for investors is huge. Nigeria is the single largest media market in sub-Saharan Africa, and a handful of Nigerian media outfits have a pan-African reach. While catering to the needs of the country’s large and diverse population is seen as a major challenge, it is also considered an opportunity for the development of niche and tailored publications, targeted advertising and new markets.