JOHANNESBURG — Nollywood fans frustrated by the Nigerian film industry’s ragtag distribution efforts have turned to a website that’s snatching up rights to local pics for online streaming.
The site, Nollywood Love, founded by Nigerian entrepreneur Jason Njoku, was created as a one-stop shop for fans of his country’s prolific film biz. The site has acquired the rights to nearly 800 pics since launching last December.
Njoku, who was raised in the U.K., says he was inspired to launch the website after fruitless attempts to track down Nollywood DVDs for Nigerian relatives in London.
Before long, he realized that most members of Nigeria’s diaspora watched Nollywood pics online, where feature-length films were chopped up and uploaded in short segments to YouTube.
Despite the poor quality, the pics had a huge following. Njoku realized how much untapped potential the Internet offered.
“The more I looked at this strange thing called Nollywood online, the more I realized that there seemed to be no infrastructure around it,” he says.
Nollywood Love took off soon after its launch and quickly spawned a dedicated YouTube channel that attracts more than 10 million views per month — an online coup for the filmmakers behind such cult hits as “Caught in the Act,” “Pastor’s Diamond” and “Pleasure and Crime.”
Njoku calls the site “a big step in the right direction” for an industry plagued by piracy and hampered by poor distribution.
“It really gives Nigerian producers and production houses an opportunity to make money,” he says.
Revenue for Nollywood Love comes from short ads before each film.
More than 90% of traffic on the YouTube channel currently comes from the diaspora, which has attracted viewers in more than 200 countries.
“These are places that traditional distribution would never be able to reach,” he says, citing the high cost of global distribution.
As broadband Internet access makes greater inroads across Africa, Njoku also hopes Nollywood Love will allow Nigerian helmers to reach larger auds on the continent.
“Nollywood is not a Nigerian phenomenon — it’s more a pan-African (phenomenon),” he says. “When (African viewers go) online, we hope to be there.”