iFlix Local Video Content is Just as Diverse as Our International Content - Sundiata Tech

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Monday, August 28, 2017

iFlix Local Video Content is Just as Diverse as Our International Content

iFlix, the largest Subscription Video on Demand (SvoD) platform in Asia recently opened its first office in Lagos, Nigeria. Entering the Nigerian video streaming space is part of the company’s strategy to expand across the continent of Africa. Ngozi Madueke-Dozie, Country Manager of iFlix sat down with FRANK ELEANYA to outline the company’s footprints and why the market in Nigeria is so significant to the future of online video streaming globally.

 

Tell us about iFlix and its proposition for the Nigerian market?

iFlix is the leading Subscription Video on Demand (SVoD) platform for emerging markets. We have launched successfully in 20+ countries, all in emerging markets. Most of them are in Asia. Nigeria is the first time we are launching in Africa.

 

Our value proposition is that we understand some of the challenges with data and the penetration of smartphones, share of wallet and the desire of many – irrespective of what these challenges are, to be entertained. So that made us specifically target this market. This is because our pricing is very affordable.

 

We like to say “You get good quality and convenience at less than the cost of a pirated movie”. You also get thousands of hours of good quality content; Nollywood, Hollywood and regional stuff. Apparently people like Korean movies, so we have that as well. Tele Novellas are coming in, in a few months. We are very excited to offer a variety of content at affordable price, and bearing in mind also that data is a challenge; we have compression technology that keeps the content as minimal as possible while still preserving the quality. We also have the download-and-watch-later feature because we understand that there are times when the rates are better, maybe in the evening when you have a WiFi that you can download from. Those are some of the features that we have that make us specifically ready for the market.

 

The current price of broadband is high and it impacts data as you have mentioned, how do you intend to deal with this for the long term?

 

When you talk of the cost of iFlix, you get thousands of movies for less than N800 a month. And looking at our competitors, you will find that ours is pretty affordable. However, there is what we consider to be the total cost, which in addition to iFlix subscription, is the cost of data. If you look at the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), because those are also important – it is mobile, it is a lot of data that we are talking about. Inasmuch as we have the content; the data is going to come from the mobile operators. If you look at the cost of data, I think that now better than ever before, this will be a good year to launch rather than a few years back. Then, data was much more expensive.

 

If you recall, a few months ago there was a data price war that the telcos had which brought the price of data crashing down which then is to our advantage. So Glo probably will have about 1GB pack for less than a N1, 000. With one Gigabyte you can watch up to ten and ten-thirty minutes shows on medium quality. You can also download at least ten in a day with 1Gigabyte. That’s almost like a whole season of a show that you can get from this 1GB of data. It is not cheap but it is not terrible.

 

Did you carry out a survey?

 

We did a survey few months ago at the University of Lagos. We specifically chose the university because we knew that the attraction will be from people that have more spare time in their hands and are looking to be entertained and they are people that have limited budget. We were interested in knowing whether or not they were willing to share their wallet with an iFlix considering that it is beyond their N800 plus data.

 

We surveyed over a thousand people; it is interesting how the numbers changed. About 70 percent of the people we surveyed were more willing and happy to spend N800 a month for data. It drops to maybe 40 percent that were willing to do so before plus buy data. What that says to me is that people are willing and they are really interested in the content. The data is still a challenge even with the price wars.

 

Have you approached the telcos yet for partnership?

 

For us to be successful in this market we will have to work and partner with the telcos. These partnerships are built by identifying areas of similarities and aligning your goals. The telcos are looking to increase their data subscribers which works for us because we want them to increase their data subscribers. So those partnerships are key. If you look at our roadmap across all the countries that we launched in, over 80 percent of them were done by partnering with the telcos. That is definitely our strategy in Nigeria as well.

 

Which of the telcos are you partnering with currently?

 

I cannot disclose yet because we have not signed. But we are talking to all the telcos and they are all interested because ultimately the content is king. I think what we are beginning to realise is that there is a convergence of content and mobile and entertainment. Anyone that is able to combine all these three wins.

 

The truth is, business wise, it makes all the sense to stick to your core competence. I wouldn’t necessarily advise that a content creator goes ahead to develop their own platform, unless you are Disney, which is just doing that now. I don’t know of any content provider in this region that is ready to move from their niche market.

 

So partnership becomes the most important route where you say “Let me do what I do” which is to provide this Over the Top (OTT) platform, I will get content from content creators and then partner with telcos to distribute it. One of the things that we are also realising as a platform is that having exclusive content is an attraction.

 

If you look at the model that Netflix has for instance – and even Amazon, they are coming up with their own original content. That is very key. That is a strategy that we have for Nigeria; that once we launch we partner. But it is one step at a time. If you look at the more matured launch market, they have gone from launching, partnering with telcos, to investing in the film industry in that country and they are now producing their own original iFlix productions. That is the trajectory in which we are also moving.

 

Nollywood is one of the major film industries in the world today, but you are coming into a segment of the market (SVoD) already controlled by a major competitor (iRokoTV), how do you plan to address this gap?    

        

There are two perspectives to answer that. From a consumer perspective, Nigerians are very multi-faceted, same with their interest. I watch Nollywood; I love Jennifer’s Diary, but I also watch Game of Thrones. I have a variety of content appetite; I like Mad Men, Suits etc. So from the consumer perspective, what we want to do is to have the best of all worlds. So if you look at any of the numbers that come out of DSTV you see eTV is probably the most popular channel there is. Also Telemundo is also very popular. From the consumer perspective, what we offer our customers is variety.

 

So we have Nigerian exclusive Nollywood content as well as Hollywood content and we also have Bollywood content coming in next month. We already have it in other countries. We are waiting to launch first before we bring Tele novellas in. We have kids content; we partner with Viacom. We have Disney as well. We have a variety of content which gives us that leg up for the average Nigerian that has kids and wants to watch a variety of shows.

 

For the Nollywood part, I think because we have the partnerships with the studios that we have from MGM to Film Busters in iFlix, I think that value proposition positions us uniquely for us to do amazing things in Nigeria. If we were to partner with a Nollywood actor or actress, or we were to do some industry specific investment, I think that will also be crucial to some of the value people in Nollywood will be able to unlock, if they were to work with us. We have approached a number of them and a number of producers as well that love that international collaboration we have. That is an asset for us.

 

Many have canvassed for hosting data in country because of the issues of buffering that online videos experience, because the content are hosted in data centres outside the country. What’s your view on this confidence user experience?

 

First of all we partner with Acamide which is what every top player in this industry partner with. Part of our partnership structure with the telcos is to host our service here in Nigeria. So it is a priority for us. The user experience is what will make or break us. Given the infrastructural challenges we have, we certainly don’t want to add any additional barriers to speedy downloads. So hosting our content here in Nigeria is definitely part of our strategy.

 

What is the significance of Nigeria to the video streaming market globally?

 

One of the reasons I love being a Nigerian is that we have the numbers. It is a good thing and sometimes a nerve wracking thing. When I look at the countries that we have launched, for instance in Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan, in terms of population and compare to 180 million people and the penetration of mobile phones in Nigeria, there is a lot of expectation in terms of the numbers that one can unlock in this country. Part of what shows value for anyone or business is whether or not you can boost your numbers. If you have a good product the assumption is that you will have a good number of people on your platform. That is one importance of Nigeria – it has the numbers.

 

Nigeria is existential to iFlix. It is not about coming to conquer the country it is a footprint if we are able to unlock numbers in Nigeria. Then you will know we have hit something good. Also because Nigeria is multi-faceted you will find that the strategies for unlocking subscribers in Lagos might be completely different from unlocking subscribers in Abuja or Kano or Enugu. They want to see different things. So there are different ways to market to them and appealing to them.

 

What is iFlix approach to local content?

 

We acknowledge that Nigerians have multiple interests. Hence, inasmuch as we have all the western content and regional content, we also have local content like Nollywood. Our strategy for content is really more of a feedback, based on what people are watching. That is the intelligence we have especially with iFlix 2.0 which has just been launched in Asia and we are bringing it to Nigeria very soon.

 

There is machine learning that tells us what people are watching and how engaged they are. It is not enough to say we have thousands of content, it is important for us to know what our customers are watching and what they will like to see and that would inform what we acquire.

 

In addition, to mainstream Nollywood content, we also have more indigenous content in local languages. It’s no news that the Yoruba movie industry is very popular and thriving so we have that. We also have some Hausa movies from the burgeoning “Kallywood industry. Our local content is just as diverse as our international content.

 

Some video streaming companies say that majority of their audiences are Nigerians living abroad. Hence, for them the desire of Nigerians at home to consume videos online is low compared to those abroad, is that your story so far in the market?

 

The truth is iFlix is live in Nigeria and all the other countries that I have mentioned but we are not in the West. So we do not have that experience. We are not in the United Kingdom and United States but only in the emerging markets. What that does is that it helps us focus 100 percent on what the Nigerian market needs. So I am not going to split my content or market strategy or investment with any other country or segment of the iFlix customer.

 

iFlix Nigeria is looking at people living in Nigeria and what they are watching and what they are doing. It is based on that we acquire content for Nigeria. The strategy for another country might be different.

 

You have started your operation in Lagos, Nigeria but the 27% smartphone penetration go beyond this city, what is the strategy for reaching people in other states?

 

Right now we are in what I call ‘our learning stage’ and are using Lagos as a test scenario because it is a mix of people from several states. We will take our learnings from here and proceed to spreading the iflix gospel across the other regions.

 

The unique thing about iFlix is that inasmuch as it is a global company with global standards, it is also a very local company. We have a content acquisition manager; we also have a marketing manager; these are all Nigerians. The reason I mentioned them is because they understand the Nigerian market. How we will market in Ekiti State will be completely different from how we will market in Kano. The kind of content that they will be interested in will be different. So right now the extent to which we tilt one way or another will be based on feedbacks.

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