In what is arguably the biggest boss move in Nollywood history, Mary Remmy Njoku, the CEO of the ROK group, which includes three ROK cable channels has just sold her production company and all its properties to French media giant, the CANAL+ group. The buyout deal will see Mrs. Njoku relinquish control of its production studios, its content distribution channels (which includes its app and its three ROK cable channels) and its publishing channels (which owns the copyrights to the films she’s made).
Some context to explain why this is such a big deal. Just ten years ago, Mrs. Njoku was a Nollywood actress making a name for herself. She wasn’t quite A-list yet, but she wasn’t unsuccessful. Then she met and married serial entrepreneur, Jason Njoku, who had this little media company called Iroko TV. Mary had a child and suddenly, no one would hire her. The industry ostracized her because they didn’t feel there were any meaty roles that would both satisfy their profit margins and the conservative expectations of their audiences; sacrificing the career of an actress felt a small bargain.
Mary decided to circumvent the system altogether. She started ROK studios, a closed ecosystem that produced, published and distributed original content. First, there were the films and then the cable channels and finally, Youtube. ROK became one of the first privately owned media companies to break even and make profit, and helped revive Mary’s career as well as the careers of actors like Alex Ekubo. Just four years after she showed everyone how media in Nigeria can be done, she’s built a profitable business with a significant enough reach to warrant a buyout from a global media corporation.
So what exactly does this CANAL+ buyout mean?
CANAL+ Group, takes over production, content distribution and publishing channels from Njoku. But they don’t get everything; IROKO Ltd, her husband’s company will retain control of IROKO+ the distribution product both companies created together. It is important to note that IROKO+ is the largest subscription Video On Demand platform in Francophone Africa (and obviously a huge part of the IROKO Ltd revenue model).
What’s in it for CANAL+?
Haven’t you been following the news? Everyone wants a piece of Africa now? 1 billion people are hard to ignore, especially with China and India coming to collect coins from Europe and America and matching them in every sphere. These countries are already turning their focus to Africa for their next 100 million users/viewers/subscribers and owing ROK means CANAL+ doesn’t have to waste precious time trying to build its own distribution channels. According to this tweet, people are already selling original content to CANAL+ and things are about to get interesting.
I was talking to a babe who wanted a career in film making and I told her she needed to watch lots of movies on RoK TV and write the kind of movies she wants to see that are not on TV. Now Canal+ just bought it and that is even a bigger audience and budget portfolio.
— Bzá (@CodeClue) July 15, 2019
As the queen that she is, Mary Remmy Njoku is also going to keep her position as Directeur General of ROK productions and stay a material shareholder in the company. IROKO+ will also retain its distribution deal with the ROK group. With a portfolio of over 540 movies and 25 original TV series, ROK is will stay of the most prolific production houses in Nollywood.
Give that woman her coins and her crown.
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.