Because I mean well for Nollywood and would like to see the industry grow, I downloaded the iRokoTV app some time last year but couldn’t bring myself to using it. I can’t say why, maybe because I have an active subscription on Netflix? For one thing, the app is designed with an easy-to-use interface and a brand colour that reminds me of beetroots, a shade of pink that makes the streaming platform alluring. The first movie I searched for, almost impulsively, was The Wedding Party and when the search bar came up with nothing, I sat in a brief bubble of inertness, wondering why this was so.
The critically acclaimed romantic comedy should be the first Nollywood product I should be able to find on Netflix, given that the film was acquired by Netflix and added to their ever-growing library in 2016. Didn’t find it on Netflix. The closest I got to it was on on iRokoTV, the 2016 Desmond Elliot film The Wedding, starring Lilian Afegbai, Blossom Chukwujekwu, and Iyabo Ojo. I have never heard of the film until now.
As for the IrokoTV app itself, I had expected the images and film posters on the app to appear pixelated or blurry. To my surprise, they were clear and glossy. Also, I have to report that iRokoTV’s catalogue of TV shows is impressive. I found Lasgidi Cops: Special Crimes Unit, a crime and investigation drama that premiered on Africa Magic in 2016, featuring Nollywood veteran Joke Silva, Femi Branch, Keppy Ekpeyong and others.
Black & White, Cougars, Husbands of Lagos, Bloodline, Jenifa’s Diary, Delilah are just a broad mix of shows queued up on the platform, constantly updated with new episodes every week. Yesterday, the second season of Single Ladies was strategically released on Valentine’s Day, the soapy chick-flick with an ensemble of Mary Remmy Njoku, Padita Agu, Mercy Aigbe Gentry, Annie Idibia and Grace Amah. This Desmond Elliot series made its debut on iRokoTV last year, and follows the lives of five young women from traditional Nigerian households as they navigate through the scary, exciting world of dating in Nigeria to find “Mr. Right.”
The reason for iRokoTV’s content bloat is obvious. ROK Studios is iRokoTV’s film production arm, based in Lagos and founded by Nollywood actress and producer Mary Remmy Njoku in 2013. Known for original scripted shows and under the helm of Njoku, ROK Studios is the existing machine that has produced and co-produced over 150 films with others in the pipeline. iRokoTV was launched earlier. In 2011, Jason Njoku and Bastian Hotter founded the platform and it was quickly dubbed as the “Netflix of Africa.”
I can see why. Comparing the subscription model of both Netflix and iRokoTV, there isn’t much of a difference. Even more, there’s the daily plan on iRokoTV, while the yearly plan is almost limitless with just N3000. Two years ago, the streaming service started data-free downloads for Nollywood films, facilitated by hard-to-miss pinkish kiosks strategically placed around Lagos. The kiosks were to aid subscriber experience and offering them content without the challenge of data.
Currently, the streaming market is fraught with competition. The entry of new players like iflix and Entertale are slowly disrupting the Netflix monopoly, and it positively indicates that consumer behaviour isn’t static. But iRokoTv is fast becoming a paragon of Nollywood access. On the app, there’s a photo gallery of actors categorised into their filmographies, and shows can be downloaded to be watched later. iRokoTv is aware of how big an industry Nollywood is, placing itself within that sphere. And it wants you to come on board.