Netflix in Africa has “no effect” on IrokoTV and other Africa VODs, but for how long?

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Last week, Netflix went global, opening up its gateway to the African continent. The announcement sent ripples across the internet, as editors the world over scribbled with glee, pontificating and predicting what the announcement meant for their countries.

Over here, in Nigeria, one man may have had more to think about than any other person. Jason Njoku – CEO of IrokoTV. He even went to his usual place of succour, his blog, and penned down a few thoughts. According to him, Netflix in Nigeria has “zero impact” on IrokoTV. This is because they serve two different markets.

But this post if not about IrokoTV. Or Jason. No. It’s about something bigger.

It’s about the Apocalypse!

It’s about the Apocalypse!

Okay. Seriously though, announcements like these by international brands (especially the ones with the core of their business on the internet) pose a big threat to Nigerian entrepreneurs. As much as we’re looking to techpreneurs to grow the economy, if the government doesn’t give these people the right protection, it will be much ado about nothing.

By Netflix’s advent into Nigeria, we could be witnessing the shutdown of a whole market, at worst; a huge barrier to entry, at best. I say “could” because Netflix needs to set something in motion for this to happen.

Netflix starts streaming African content

That’s in addition to their vast library of licensed programming. Mr Hastings, Netflix CEO, mentioned that Netflix would initially focus on expanding the reach of its existing content rather than commissioning extra locally-made shows. So we know creating locally relevant content is part of their (world domination) strategy.

Netflix will be watching their numbers to spot any markets with potentials. If Ericsson is right, African online video consumption will grow by 55% every year till 2019. That may turn out to be enticing enough for the Netflix team.

If Netflix, decides to double down on the Nigerian market (we already have the world’s second biggest movie industry), create crowd resonating shows like Tinsel, sign deals with Nollywood stars, connect them to Hollywood, the possibilities are endless.

If all these happened, we’d be looking at Nigeria’s biggest VOD service ever. And this is a problem, especially for our homegrown VOD services like Iroko.

I read recently, how it’s in Nigeria’s best interest to open up to more foreign investment, right about now, as we need the money. Because dollar. And oil prices.

So we need the money. But that doesn’t mean we let the guests come in, head over to the kitchen and clean house. Welcoming more investors and businessmen effectively shuts out local entrepreneurs. What’s even worse is, a company like Netflix has no policies to adhere to, for now. All their international business is on the internet. They don’t even have to be in the country physically.

A dilemma such as this helps you realise just how useful, and pretty genius actually, China’s protectionist laws are. The National Assembly seem to be toying with the idea of Internet censorship, but we don’t know what’s become of that.

The conversation seems to have already begun in Kenya but it’s not broad enough, if you ask me.

A country like Nigeria, with its kind of population, with its kind of spending power, shouldn’t be up for grabs. It should be protected (there’s that word again).

To be fair, new problems create new opportunities. Off the top of my head, I see a lot of sense in a startup creating African content, doubling up on that and effectively increasing its chances of being acquired by Netflix. Or at most, licensing all their shows on the VOD service. But I’ll leave the ideating to the entrepreneurs. I’m just thinking out loud.

For now, Netflix doesn’t pose that much of a threat. IrokoTV and other African content based VODs can rest easy (it’s another story for Showmax though).

On a final note, Netflix’s global blowout could hasten Amazon’s spread into more regions. Netflix never shares their numbers, but if they start crushing it, you can bet Amazon wouldn’t be too far behind. Or what do you think?



I'm 3 parts geek, 1 part funny man, and the last part is between me and my shrink. Technology Editor at Enterprise54. I write about (obsess over) gadgets, tech and startups. Send me stuff.

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