iROKO: Internet TV advances in Africa

The African entertainment internet TV platform iROKOtv.com has launched a new international content package for its subscribers on the continent.

New content categories introduced on the platform include Hollywood, Bollywood, telenovelas and Korean programming, complementing the platform’s extensive Nollywood catalogue.

Subscribers throughout English Speaking Africa (ESA) can access the service for $2.50 a month. iROKOtv was launched in December 2011 and is currently the 11th largest pay-TV operator in Africa, with plans to become one of the top five.

Having secured additional funding earlier this year, bringing the total raised from Tiger Global, Kinnevik and Rise Capital to $25 million, it is now pushing to make OTT delivery a mainstream means of affordable and legal content consumption across Africa.

Commenting on the launch, Jason Nkoku, the platform’s co-founder and CEO, said: “We have been passionate about bringing affordable content to viewers across Africa. This is just another milestone towards that. Internet TV will enable hundreds of millions of fans across the continent to finally be able to access awesome content.

“We see the web and mobile platform almost as equal to DTH and DTT platforms in the next few years and our focus is on achieving this in Africa, supplying the 800-million strong population of Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) with the best content on the planet, be it from Nollywood, Hollywood or Bollywood.”

The subscription service allows for unlimited, commercial-free viewing and in an effort to conquer the ongoing challenge of expensive data charges across Africa, all new content will also be subjected to advance encoding, allowing files to be compressed and significantly reduce costs associated with video streaming, whilst keeping picture quality as high as possible.

Pay-TV is the fastest growing form of media in Africa, and with the emergence of DTH and the rapid rise of DTT over the last two years it is predicted that internet TV will become the third distribution platform. The mobile revolution is set to propel this growth of internet-enabled devices, which will continue to grow as data becomes more affordable. The figure for such hardware devices is set to reach the hundreds of millions by 2017. Pay-TV subscriptions across Africa currently stand at 10 million, with international bundles costing as much as $40 per month, making quality content unaffordable for the majority of the continent and therefore leaving the market open to extensive piracy.

Njoku added: “We polled thousands of iROKOtv sers in SSA and 80% indicated they didn’t have Pay TV access. We feel our audience complements existing players and we are excited to be contributing to the Pay TV universe across Africa. However, our audience combats challenges not faced by their Western counterparts, such as a lack of constant electricity supplies to power their mobile phones, laptops and tablets, so we have to design our products within these parameters. We have spent the last three years understanding how to address these challenges, as well as focussing on how to deliver awesome, affordable and legal content in extreme bandwidth-light environments.”

iROKOtv is valued at over $50 million and at least 50% of its catalogue is African in origin. It has the world’s largest collection of Nollywood movies, totaling over 10,000 hours of content, and has offices in Lagos, New York and Johannesburg.

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