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Nollywood: conquering the French-speaking market

In terms of scope, Nollywood is the second largest film industry in the world after the Indian Bollywood. The sector, which was 1.4% of Nigeria’s GDP in 2014, has become a gold mine over the years. Today, Nollywood goes beyond its native borders to refer to continental production, though in English-speaking countries, but which targets new markets.

Nollywood’s success with the African public in general and its Diaspora in particular, can be explained in several ways. For immigrants settled thousands of kilometers away from their families, it is above all nostalgia for the country and the « adventures of African social life » which are attractive in these films. « I am a Togolese living in Lyon (France) since 2001. I watched African films for the first time after visiting the country and I can tell you that I kept a good impression: these films put us in touch with the realities of the country; I love them in the platforms, » said Albert Lawson, a moviegoer of the diaspora. And these new modes of distribution are now questioning Nollywood, especially in the digital era.

A still wild distribution

According to Gab Okoye (Gabosky), Managing Director of the production and distribution firm FilmHouse Cinemas, « distribution remains the crux of the problem in the film industry in general, and this is also true for the Nigerian film industry. » Yet the latter was about 853.9 billion naira or 5.1 billion US dollars in 2014 – and ranks third behind Hollywood and Bollywood in financial terms.

But, considering its influence throughout the continent, it seems urgent to set up genuine international distribution companies to counter piracy which has overwhelmed Nollywood. « Piracy is resistant because of the lack of distribution networks. When we started Nollywood, we did not have a distribution network; everything was live broadcasted with all its problems. Then, I decided to set up a network after obtaining a license from the government, » says Okoye. Today, his group G-Media « is established in 20 countries to fill the lack of Nollywood distributors. »

Similarly for the Nigerian officials, this still too wild distribution at the international level is a real shortfall. That is why they seek to regulate the sector by allocating more than half of the subsidies – estimated at three billion naira – to the development of distribution networks with, in line, foreign markets in French-speaking countries.

New platforms for new markets

To benefit from the sector, which contributes to nearly 1.4% of Nigeria’s national economy, film distribution platforms have also emerged, including three of them which are interested in Nollywood films: Ibaka TV, Nollywood TV and IrokoTV. The latter, launched in December 2011 with $ 3 million US, claimed, last year, a million unique visitors per month. Now, Iroko wants to go further in online distribution, and thus launched in November 2015, Iroko Global, the department in charge of global distribution.

Based in London, the Iroko Global team will distribute its catalog via Tv channels on the Internet, pay-TV platforms or via YouTube channels and, to tackle the francophone markets, it recently signed a multi-million euro partnership with the French group Canal Plus – with the launch of the « first » video-on-demand (VOD) service on Mobile Android for French-speaking African countries.

By proposing to broadcast « Nollywood movies and TV series », the two groups are seeking to conquer a market of 250 million French-speaking populations in 23 African countries and participate in the Francophone conquest required by Nollywood to continue its expansion and harmonize distribution.


Author: Blamé Ekoue // Photo: Ghana-Must-Go, success of Nollywood – © Blamé Ekoue

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