EXCLUSIVE: IROKOtv doubles down on dollar-paying users as it denies reports of a shutdown

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EXCLUSIVE: IROKOtv doubles down on dollar-paying users as it denies reports of a shutdown

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After weeks of consumers pondering the abrupt disappearance of streaming platform, IROKOtv, Jason Njoku explains that the company is on the verge of a platform migration and denies a reported shutdown.

Twelve-year-old African streaming platform, IROKOtv has denied shutting down operations after its website went offline and its mobile app disappeared from the Apple and Android app stores. That disappearance, alongside muted communication across its social media handles, triggered speculation that the service was on the verge of collapse.

“I am trying to find a way to make sure that they do not charge me again to renew my subscription,” said Kiki, a South African user who was neither able to operate her app nor redownload it from the Android Play Store.  Other subscribers who use iPhones have not been able to redownload them from the Apple App Store for as long as five months now. Many users trace the malfunction back to as far back as June, the last time the company published a new movie on the platform. ”They had promised us that they would publish new movies every week. But since June, they have been publishing old movies,” Dinma, another user, told TechCabal.

However, in a conversation with TechCabal, Jason Njoku, IROKOtv’s CEO, denied the shutdown claims and explained that the company’s services went offline due to an ongoing migration. “We’ve been migrating platforms for the last few weeks, so the site has been in maintenance mode,” he said.

After 10 years running on a software stack designed for an African audience with specific broadband configuration needs, IROKOtv is shifting its focus, Njoku explained. “We had to hard pivot away from Africa, which rendered our existing product and platform obsolete. It was harder than expected to untangle everything after 10+ years of building for Nigeria first,” he said.

The migration is near completion, he claims, explaining that the engineering pivot was necessary to ensure IROKOtv becomes accessible on smart TVs, a fast-growing segment among streaming companies. He expects the streaming platform will become accessible as quickly as this week, and the company expects to go live on smart TVs, including Roku, LG, and Samsung, by the end of the year.

IROKOtv represents one of the earliest groups of African tech startups from the early 2010s, as entrepreneurs and investors made their first bets on the continent’s digital services, including streaming services and e-commerce. While several businesses from this period have struggled, IROKOtv, backed by Tiger Global, has managed to survive while several of its streaming competitors collapsed.

Image source: Iroko TV

Njoku has repeatedly explained over the last few years that IROKOtv has had to make a painful pivot from its African roots to remain in business. Low income and affordability of broadband connectivity continue to hamper the widespread adoption of streaming services on the continent. And in 2019, it sold off its content library and film production arm to Canal+ as the French media doubled down on the African continent.

“[Today], 89% of our revenues for the first nine months of 2023 were outside of Nigeria,” Njoku told TechCabal. “With the new Naira devaluations that ultimately makes sense.” While this is not the first time NJoku’s IROKOtv has talked about the importance of focusing on the African diaspora, its impending migration represents a big bet on its new target market.

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