irokotv at 5.
This business. She has taken so much from me, yet somehow has been able to balance it out by giving back much more. This week has been a interesting one - CNN covered our ROK on SKY launch, Newsweek covered our ‘empire building’. 1 December, irokotv’s birthday, is usually a day of reflection over a hard fought year and dreams of the future. Earlier this year, we were putting the finishing touches to our $19m content and capital deal with Canal+ when the 8,000 Gorillas entered our little corner of the world. They called irokotv’s death. We brushed it off. Not in some fit of blinded arrogance. But just business as usual. Not much had changed in our world. No panic. No need for us to reassess our reality. Five years ago, we set out to build a dedicated community for Nollywood online. For 3.5 of those years, we didn’t realise what that really, really meant. Over the last 18 months, as I led the transformation of irokotv into a product, design and engineering-focused organisation, I now have the team and the tools to create that community. We have active subscribers in over 100 countries. I think that’s beautiful. Even as a civil war raged in Ukraine, our community there joined us to marvel at the beauty of Nollywood. Even as Brexit wiped a trillion dollars off global markets, our UK community cried with us over the injustices of child marriages in ‘Child Not Bride’. Over the last year, race and diversity (#blacklivesmatters, and #oscarssowhite trends) became international issues. The US elections drew a cold, bold line across a nation on the issues of race, tolerance and the idea of freedom for all. Our little Nollywood community continued to grow as their hearts swooned to the Muslim and Christian young love of North East. Our members continued to fall in love with our own stories, self image and aspirations. Nollywood is not perfect. Far from it. She is as conflicted as the Nigeria we know and have, at times, loathed. But what it does is capture the hearts and minds of those who respect and represent our culture. As I travel around the world, I am amazed at the number of people who are proud of irokotv. If all those who wished me well and sensed the pride of what we are trying to build actually subscribed, I am pretty sure we would be x10 the size we are today. Alas, we will surf on the wave of their goodwill. And I thank them for it.
In as much as IROKO, the company which gave birth to irokotv, has diversified her revenue to include third party platforms and linear channels across the world, irokotv still remains the biggest budget buster and employer across the group.
As we look forward, 2017 isn’t the year we grow massively. We believe it’s still way too early. We have hired (or about to close hiring) an additional 230-people to join the already 120 who work out of our Lagos HQ. That makes 400 people across the organisation. This is an even more ambitious move than the one last year which was deemed reckless and / or straight up feckless. Alas, this time last year, apparently my head was on the preverbal block. One thing I am absolutely not, is indecisive.
A bigger organisation. A broader organisation.
Two years ago, someone told me point blank that irokotv was useless in Nigeria as there was a bigger platform that everyone watched. I agreed. But felt we had a strong enough love of content, Nollywood data arbitrage and that Mrs Njoku knew a thing or two about creating content. So we merged the three and set about to express a new version of Nollywood, and in amongst all the noise, we rapidly embraced a new (older platform) in Africa- PayTV. When the chance came along to create our own channels? We jumped. Soon, we will be the most broadly distributed and widely watched Nollywood channel group, globally. By 2020 we have a road map to triple the number of channels and / or countries where we are present today.
IROKO has diversified the business where no one unit represents more than 35% of revenue. We will always be susceptible to short term pains as we remain in rapid investment mode, but at core, I have never felt better about the future. We should end up 80–100% group revenue growth in FYI ’17. We have the ingredients to double again FYI ’18. Forget Trump, forget Brexit, forget oil price and recession. We expect to be cashflow positive across the group in 2017. People see IROKO as one company. It’s not. Its a collection of 8 (5/8 of which are profitable). irokotv wasn’t even the first company. NollywoodLove (now IrokoX) is. But she is our future.
For now, we are staying thankful to God to still be in the game after all these years. That’s blessed.
Impose ta chance, serre ton bonheur et va vers ton risque. A te regarder, ils s’habitueront — René Char
Create your luck, seize your good fortune and embrace risk: they’ll get used to you.