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How Jason Njoku saved Nollywood!
A few days ago, Jason Njoku, the founder of iRokotv tweeted that Nigeria has finally overtaken the UK as iRoko’s second biggest market. But the US still remains ahead. Reacting to this, some people said it must have been a result of the data price crash in Nigeria, some others said it was a result of Jason’s entrepreneurial ingenuity and his stick-to-it-ness, while some simply attributed it to the increasing awareness of the iRoko brand. Meanwhile, whereas all these may be true, what this means is that Jason’s iRoko has begun to reap from solving Nollywood’s quality control problem, which has been the industry’s biggest challenge since inception.

Nollywood as we know it today with all its sad commentaries of dearth of standard and horrific story lines was not always like that. Ask the industry pundits, and they will tell you that Nollywood produced good films. They’ll probably romanticise about the good old days when stories like ‘Igodo’, ‘Conspiracy’, ‘Osuofia’ and ‘Living in Bondage’ were the toast of the film goers in Nigeria.

But over time, things began to change and for the worse. Nollywood producers became discontent with the revenue from their films. First, they started producing medium length films chipped into several short parts. The pesky part really was the film trailers, (We used to call them adverts back then) which you have to watch before the main film. So, viewers were subjected to watching at least 10 to 15 minutes trailer before the main story commences which sadly ends in less than 30 minutes and then you have to look for the second, third and probably a fourth or fifth part (Bakassi Boys comes to mind) to complete the series and then watch same trailers of different movies from the same producer. It was, to say the least, the highest consumer abuse.

That was just the beginning of the industry’s descent. Since people didn’t mind buying the four parts films, the producers became even greedier and started hurrying over their productions thereby producing as many films as possible within the shortest possible time. One of the producers at the time even boasted publicly that he could finish a movie including, post-productions, within 72 hours. That was when the quality of the films began to take a drastic turn for the worse. Since the productions were hurried, the stories became shallow and shallower. Furthermore, it was even rumoured at some point that one needed no script if one had good and talented actors. All was needed was the synopsis and the actors could interpret their roles as best they could.

This trend had predictable consequences. First, the films became bland and ordinary, things that commercial film productions must never be. Second, virtually all the films began to have predictable endings. To make matters worse, the producers began focusing on one theme. If one producer produced a blockbuster (whatever that may mean in the Nigerian context) about love, every other producer followed suit with a love film with similar characters and same actors. It was that bad that one wouldn’t be too busy to notice.

Moreover, as if these were not enough, marketers who had been feeding off these greed and dangerous trends began to make unreasonable demands. They began to play the landlord. First they began to sponsor productions. And then they formed a cartel and dictated to the producers what stories must be produced and actors that must be featured.
The part about choosing the actors had its roots on the market reaction to the thoughtless films being churned out by the producers. So, since some actors (who have become stars of sort) became more associated with better stories, more people were persuaded to buy and watch films they featured in. That was how the marketers began to make demands for certain star actors. In response, the marketers jostled for the actors and the actors in turn demanded higher fees (simple law of demand and supply) and conflicts ensued. At some point, the Marketers’ Union perceiving some actors to be rude for charging higher fees began to sanction them by placing a ban and suspending them from acting in any film to be sold in the country. Also, the consumers on the other hand became fed up with seeing the same actors recycled in different films.

Therefore, the people, having gotten fed up with the schlocky films started to revolt quietly. First, they switched to Ghallywood (the ones made from Ghana) but it was not long, many Nollywood producers shifted base and relocated to Ghana and before one could spell Jack Robbinson, the Ghallywood began to tell the Nollywood’s sad story. As a result, the consumers began to look for anything but Nollywood or Ghallywood. They watched Philipino films, South Korean films, and Hollywood series. Even Indian films made a surprise return to Nigeria.
This was the state of Nollywood when Jason Njoku stepped in. First, he assembled a team to sift through the pile of junks called films to select any meaningful ones for his internet market while seeking partnerships with the producers and marketers. With all the challenges of the broadband penetration, dearth of human capacity, etc, Jason continued to sift through the pile, looking for Nollywood films that people could watch without complaining that their time has been wasted and then uploading it on iRokotv for the whole world to watch. Interestingly, it was America and England that took highest interest. What of Nigeria? One would ask. The only satisfactory response would be that the Nigerian consumer had lots of challenges which cannot be separated from the Nigerian socio-political cum socio-economic environment. Nevertheless, these did not deter Jason. Because of Jason’s practical marketing strategies, a new set of movie producers emerged who paid attention to quality. These set of producers began to pay attention to standards and are responsible for those fantastic movie series on iRokotv app.

Consequently, Jason has created a free and transparent market that will make it possible for people to invest in a movie and recoup their investments without the intermediary of the unscrupulous marketers at Alaba and Idumota. More so, because of Jason’s iRoko, new movie stars are now emerging since all you need is a quality production. Since downloading the iRoko app, I have watched countless movies that didn’t feature any known Nollywood star. And that didn’t prevent the movies from being interesting. Meanwhile, Nollywood continues to grow overseas because of iRoko and local producers are being compelled to step up their game. In my opinion, Jason saved Nollywood and for all the great things yet to happen to Nollywood, this fact should never be forgotten.

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