African OTT service iROKO raises $19m

African over-the-top video service iRoko has raised a total of US$19 million and announced plans to “expand aggressively” across the continent.

The move, which comes just weeks after OTT rival Netflix rolled out in Africa, will see iRoko invest in local content financing and production.

The service said it aims to produce at least 300 hours of original content this year, doubling this by 2018 in an effort to build “one of the largest libraries of local African content”.

The US$19 million comes from multiple content development and capital funding deals. Canal+ and an existing backer, Swedish investment firm Kinnevik AB, both contributed.

At the same time Canal+ Overseas president Jacques du Puy joins the iRoko board.

“With millions more Africans poised to come online via mobile in the coming years, our mission is to lead viewers to content they’ll love,” said iRoko CEO and co-founder Jason Njoku describing a “joyous union” between mobile phones and Nollywood content.

“The challenges surrounding mobile TV in Africa are mighty, but not insurmountable,” he added. “It’s human to be entertained and connect over community and we are obsessed with creating Africa’s largest community around local content.”

Canal+ Overseas’ chief finance officer, Fabrice Faux, added: “We congratulate Jason and all the iRoko team and investors for theiroutstanding achievement so far and we are proud to partner for the scale-up in French-Speaking Africa, with clear ambitions and the means to reach them.”

Last month Canal+ Group announced that it was partnering with iRoko to launch a new Android-based mobile subscription video-on-demand service for Francophone Africa, building on an existing partnership between the two companies.

Netflix launched in 130 new countries earlier this month, giving it near global coverage outside of China. However, its African rollout has not been entirely smooth, with the Kenya Film Classification Board last week threatening to block Netflix in the country, claiming the SVOD service is a “threat to our moral values”.

Tags: Canal+, iRoko, Netflix