Iroko TV, once considered the “African Netflix” for its pioneering online streaming of Nollywood films and shows, has ceased operations in an unfortunate turn of events.
Founded in 2010 by Nigerian entrepreneur Jason Njoku, Iroko TV quickly gained global fame and subscribers as the first major platform providing worldwide access to African entertainment content. But now, the curtains have closed on this promising startup.
Iroko TV launched in 2011 with the bold vision of revolutionising African entertainment by making Nollywood accessible globally through video on demand. It expanded across Africa, launching in Kenya via StarTimes in 2015 and South Africa through DVDs in 2013.
The meteoric growth attracted sizable investments totalling US$42 million from local and international backers, underscoring the platform’s immense potential to impact entertainment worldwide. The last funding round came in 2016, marking the height of Iroko TV’s rise.
The specific reasons behind Iroko TV’s shutdown remain unclear. Industry-wide, streaming services have faced revenue and subscriber declines. As a startup, Iroko TV laid off 150 staff in 2020, citing COVID-19, currency devaluation, and a hostile regulatory climate. The company acknowledged overspending relative to income.
The Naira’s devaluation since 2016 slashed subscriptions from N3,000 ($18) to N3,000 ($8.33), straining finances. After selling its ROK studios in 2019, Iroko TV sought to grow subscribers as the key priority. Meanwhile, global players like Netflix entered Africa, heightening competition.
Ongoing funding challenges likely contributed to Iroko TV’s demise. Securing investments grew harder amid shifting African startup ecosystems. The entertainment sector received minimal funding, limiting Iroko TV’s growth prospects despite platforms like Sony’s $100 million African creative fund.
Ultimately, Iroko TV could not keep pace with both global streaming giants and Africa’s dynamic tech landscape. Its closure represents a major loss for investors, Nollywood, and African startups.