Canal Plus has acquired the channels and production activities of Iroko Partners, which targets Nigerian consumers around the world. The deal has three parts: ROK Studios, claimed to the be the leading film and TV producer in Nigeria, distribution rights to its catalogue, and four ROK-branded TV channels distributed in English-speaking Africa and on the Sky platform in the UK and Ireland. Iroko Partners will continue to own and operate its subscription video-on-demand service, Iroko+, separately, with the French group's Canal+ International subsidiary on board as an investor. Iroko was founded by African entrepreneur Jason Njoku.
Canal Plus is active on the African continent with the Canal Plus Afrique brand. Its channel offering includes Nollywood TV, launched in 2013, and Nollywood Epic. No financial details for the transaction were published. The group said the deal means that it will be present in the entire value chain of the Nollywood industry and would acquire valuable know-how in producing African films, TV series and animation.
Africa is an important part of the Canal Plus business outside France. The group reported 4.1 million subscribers in Africa at the end of 2018, over half of its international base. Subscriptions have also increased at a healthy rate over a period where the core French business has been contracting for several years. The main focus of the Canal Plus Afrique business is French-speaking Africa in countries like Camerooon and Senegal. The acquisitions of Iroko's channels and ROK Studios will move it further into a larger English-speaking market, including not only Nigeria's population of 200 million plus, but also a significant overseas diaspora living mainly in the UK and US.
According to Iroko's latest available accounts filed in Companies House in the UK, the channels and distribution business are both profitable, with the Iroko+ service operating at a loss but growing quickly. However, the UK accounted for the majority of Iroko's annual revenue in 2017: $7.65 million out of total revenues of $11.1 million. The accounts also reveal that Canal Plus International made an investment of $2.5 million in Iroko in 2018.
Canal Plus is one of a handful of international players targeting sub-Saharan Africa, alongside the South African Multichoice group and China's StarTimes. A third group, Econet, closed its sports pay TV venture Kwese TV in November last year, a sign of the challenges of operating a subscription TV business in the region.
Canal Plus is one of a handful of international players targeting sub-Saharan Africa, alongside the South African Multichoice group and China's StarTimes. A third group, Econet, closed its sports pay TV venture Kwese TV last week, a sign of the challenges of operating a subscription TV business in the region.