Nigeria: Blessed Ilukor Idornigie, CEO, Ibaka TV On the Impact of the COVID-19 Lockdown, Its Expansion Plans and Moving Its Platform to AWS

London — iBAKA TV is one of Nigeria's largest VoD platforms and a key Nollywood player on YouTube. This week Russell Southwood spoke to its CEO Blessed Ilukor Idornigie about the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown and changing its VoD platform.

iBAKA TV was launched in 2012 initially as a YouTube Premium channel with two different channels: one with English-language Nollywood films and the other with non-English language Nollywood. Seeing the success of these channels, Idorgnie decided that it would be a good idea to launch a VoD platform. It was iBAKA TV that organized the first global online premier for a Nollywood film in June 2012 for Obi Emelonye's Last Flight to Abuja.

Like many Nollywood VoD platforms, it gets 90% of its revenues from the African diaspora and currently has 70-100,000 people who have signed up and 40-50,000 active subscribers, which means that there are probably around 5,000 subscribers in Nigeria itself. It has continued to offer YouTube channels and gets 10% of its revenues from these channels and 90% from its paid subscribers. It sees its competitors as Netflix and irokotv.

Audiences for the YouTube content varies a great deal but the examples below give some idea of the range:

  • Love or Something Like That 158,407
  • One Crazy Weekend 106,634
  • The Devil Within 58,218
  • Bridal Shower 24,392

It has produced Nollywood films but in its current stage of development, it is doing "more licensing now" releasing 50-100 films a year. Its library has over 15,000 hours of movies and TV series.It wants to expand its content library to include telenovelas and childrens' content like cartoons:"For cartoons, we're going to partner with one of the Studios and this will help expand our reach.

So what has been the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the company's platform?:"It has created more engagement on our platform with longer watch times. People are now looking at 5-10 movies a month and we've had increased subscription levels. But we haven't had any drop in terms of speeds or downtime."

It is planning a subscription bundled with data for Nigeria and is currently in negotiations with Globacom:"There is so much potential in Nigeria and it would be a symbiotic relationship. It would encourage both more viewers and more traffic. We can leverage on getting access to their 50 million subscribers." iBAKA TV has plans to expand its service into Ghana and Liberia, using Globacom's Glo II undersea cable.

Between 2015 and 2017 the company began to experience a range of problems on the VoD platform it was using:"We were partnering with an international company based in the UK. There were major challenges with three issues: piracy, speed and quality. We asked them to see how they might encrypt our content and they could not fully implement the technology. Our subscribers in Europe were having problems that affected access."

"We decided to approach a different company. We had used AWS before for hosting our website. It was able to guide us through the product and how to implement it in terms of low pricing. It's a far better deal financially as we got a 40% discount. It has a storage service and elastic load balancing and really is a cloud first service." The Amazon Cloudfront service claims to deliver:"On average, up to a 50% reduction in first-byte latency when wishing to access watchable content."

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