French television company Canal+ has acquired the ROK film studio from VOD company IROKOtv for an undisclosed amount. The company founded by Jason Njoku in 2010—and backed by $45 million in VC—IROKOtv boasts the largest online catalog of Nollywood film content in the world reports TechCrunch
Based in Lagos, ROK film studios was incubated to create original content for IROKOtv, which can be accessed online anywhere in the world. Actress and producer Mary Njoku—IROKOtv CEO Jason Njoku’s wife—founded ROK studios and will stay on as Director General under the Canal+ acquisition.
Owned by media conglomerate Vivendi, Canal+ looks to give Mary more production resources, without disrupting ROK’s creative chemistry.
“We are acquiring the talent of Mary,” Canal+ Chief Content Officer Fabrice Faux told TechCrunch on a call.
“We will provide administrative support, finance, and equipment, but otherwise it is our intention to give Mary maximum autonomy and creative freedom,” he said.
Mrs. Njoku’s creative work so far has led ROK to produce over 540 movies and 25 original TV series, according to company data.
Through ROK, Njoku has expanded Nollywood’s formula for producing films on low budgets, largely shot on location in Nigeria, that connect with African audiences wherever they are. One of ROK’s more recent popular productions is Ojukwu, a period series set in an 1800s Nigerian village, in which Njoku directs and acts.
“Nollywood is Africa…We tell the African story. You can bring a Nigerian story, a Ghanaian story, a South African story…we talk the same drama. So Africans can connect to the average Nollywood story anywhere in the world,” Njoku told TechCrunch.
With the ROK acquisition, Canal+ looks to bring the Nollywood production ethos to other countries and regions of Africa.
“It’s not that easy to produce an interesting movie for $20,000. People in Nigeria, particularly Mary and IROKO, know how to do that,” said Faux from Canal+.
“We want her to bring that to French speaking Africa. Because we need more African content and we need the industry to develop in French speaking Africa.”
Faux would not divulge the acquisition price but confirmed there is a cash component of the deal. “This is key for Jason…to developing the VOD aspects of IROKO,” he said.
Under the deal, ROK will continue to create unique content for IROKOtv, ROK’s four existing channels—three on DSTV and ROK Sky in the UK—as well as Canal+’s Africa and global channels.