Netflix is finally putting its $8 billion original production budget to work in
Nigeria’s Nollywood movie industry.
The global streaming giant purchased worldwide rights to Lionheart, its first original
film from Nigeria. The comedy, stars Nollywood bigwigs including Genevieve
Nnaji, Nkem Owoh, Pete Edochie, and Onyeka Onwenu. Nnaji who has had some
success starring in Hollywood productions, doubles as director on Lionheart.
Netflix has previously licensed Nollywood flicks including romantic comedy The
Wedding Party as well as crime thriller October 1st but only after both had been screened
in local cinemas.
Netflix’s first original film from Nollywood is an added bow as the industry evolves.
Initially known for its model of low-budget high-volume productions, Nollywood
became the world’s second biggest movie industry by volume. But in recent years,
Nollywood has begun placing more emphasis on quality over quantity. Those efforts
have been rewarded with local and international box office success. But as it continues
with the lack of a vast enough distribution network locally—there
aren’t enough cinemas and piracy remains a problem—global streaming revenues are
for Nollywood. This is in addition to significant investment from the South
Africa-owned Africa Magic television channel which has backed Nollywood productions
with millions of dollars.
Netflix can also take a cue4
from, iROKOtv, also dubbed “the Netflix of Africa.” The
success of iROKOtv, the first major streaming service to offer Nollywood content,
offers a measure of the market and appeals that Nollywood movies hold. iROKO has
also had success translating its long-term Nollywood relationship into international
broadcasting channels on South Africa’s DStv, UK’s Sky and investment from France’s
The first hint Netflix would have more active interest in original African content
came in May when it advertised for a director of content acquisition for the Middle
East, Turkey and Africa. Back in October 2016—nine months after launching in
Africa—it also deployed a dedicated server in Nigeria to ease the difficulties of content
delivery for its local users.
But as it steps up in Africa, Netflix is facing increased competition. Multichoice,
Africa’s largest pay TV player, in response to its dipping subscription numbers, is
already pushing to have Netflix regulated.
“Netflix is starting to take Africa’s largest movie industry seriously”, Yomi Kazeem, Courtesy of Quartz at QZ.com, 2018.