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Netflix Has Lionheart but iROKOtv is Not the Only One Left With Nothing

It’s certainly been a fulfilling couple of days for Nollywood actress Genevieve Nnaji. After top-class performances in Nollywood and a couple of cameos in Hollywood, she has now moved on to direct a movie of her own – Lionheart – and seen it premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Also hugely significant for both Genevieve and Nigeria’s movie industry is the purchase of worldwide rights to Lionheart by Netflix.

The acquisition of Lionheart makes it Netflix’s first original movie from Nigeria. Netflix has previously licensed Nollywood romantic comedy The Wedding Party and crime thriller October 1 but only after both had been screened in local cinemas.

Netflix’s move almost instantly translates as a missed opportunity for iROKOtv, one of Africa’s first mainstream online movie steaming websites which has been dubbed “Netflix of Africa.”

iROKOtv gives access to over 5,000 Nollywood film titles and is the world’s largest legal digital distributor of African movies. It works with most of Nollywood’s top film production houses and purchases the exclusive online licenses to their films, in an attempt to distribute Nollywood films to a global audience.

The company’s audience is predominantly in the Diaspora, with top five countries including US, UK, Canada, Germany and Italy.

Since 2014, the company has also moved into global offline distribution, and supplies a number of airlines with Nollywood content, including British Airways, South African Airways, Emirates, Kenya Airways and United Airlines.

Netflix’s scoop of Lionheart also leaves Nollywood with an empty bowl imagining what could have been. Nigeria’s film industry became the third most valuable film industry in the world – behind the US and India – based on its worth and revenues generated, reporting a record breaking revenue of ₦1.72 trillion (US$11 billion). In that same year, it contributed to about 1.4% to Nigeria’s economy.

Online streaming platforms like iROKOtv brought a breath of fresh air for Nollywood which has been plagued by piracy issues over the years. It now appears that film makers can now reap more fruits from their labor and the economy in turn can benefit from that. This means that iROKOtv’s failure to secure broadcast rights to Nollywood’s latest blockbuster is a loss to the company and the economy.

This also raises questions about regulations within the continent; already Multichoice, Africa’s largest pay TV player having seen its subscribership slip is asking that Netflix be regulated.

You can watch the trailer of the movie below.

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