Evidently there is a major rush to gather traction in the video-on-demand space in Africa. After the introduction of Aflix.tv in East Africa and the expansion of IROKOTv, yet another mobile movie database and streaming service, Afrinolly, based in Nigeria, is now boasting of 4 million downloads across all the major platforms. Afrinolly is a nifty application that allows users to get information about the movies that are being released in the African market and they can watch trailers or stream free content from their mobile devices. The application resembles the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) but caters to the African Continent. Speaking to YourStory, Bobola Oniwura, the Creative Director of FansConnectOnline Limited, the company that owns Afrinolly, said that there is a great need for video-on-demand in the Continent and hence the growth of the product.
“It’s a real need. The need existed back in 2011 when we started and the need still exists today. But bandwidth issues needs to be addressed by the government and the sector players. This will help users to download and stream the content.”
He said that most streaming services are ready to deliver once the bandwidth challenge is addressed in Africa. Spurred by a Google Android Developer Challenge in 2011, Afrinolly has been one of the earliest streaming services on the Continent. Oniwura said that the product is big in Africa due to the fact that it is fully built in Africa for Africans, and achieving this feat was without venture capital funding. “The US$25,000 we won in the competition took us literally three weeks to exhaust through advertising the application,” Oniwura narrated. But soon after they officially launched the application, it saw a great rise in downloads across the Continent. “The initial reaction was good. We launched it in the market in November 2011. We had to work on it more after the competition. We then built the Blackberry, iPhone and Windows apps. Afrinolly now has over 4 million downloads in all platforms,” Oniwura said. Their biggest break came in 2012 when they partnered with MTN Nigeria to market the application and this opened bigger avenues for the business as they were able to advertise on billboards and newspapers. This co-branding partnership gave the application the exposure it needed. The biggest market for the application is Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and the Middle East. But these newly chartered waters gave rise to new challenges. Oniwura said that the price of getting content is getting higher and higher. “What is happening is that everyone is scrambling for the same content and people are beginning to price out the content in a crazy manner. The price will not allow you to make a profit. The market right now cannot be charged for streaming content.” Charging for content is not a popular avenue especially in Africa. “People are not ready to pay for content in Africa,” Oniwura said. “And even if you get those who want to pay, the payment systems in Africa are not well developed.” He noted that despite the advancement in technology, the credit/debit card market is still small. “Trying to make money from advertising? Truth of the matter is that you are not going to make any money. The reason ads don’t work yet in Africa is because there is really no platform out there that has a critical mass of people using it that would make the per view or per click sensible. Even the 4 million downloads is not enough to make money out of ads,” Oniwura explained. He added that you would need 20 million users on the platform to make significant revenue off advertising. Despite the pitfalls of not easily monetizing, Afrinolly still has great plans ahead. They would want to continue to improve the application and grow traction for the platform.
“One of the challenges you have in the film industry in Africa is lack of organized information like Internet Movie Database for America and Europe. And Afrinolly is becoming that structured place where you can find information that you cannot find anywhere else,” Oniwura said.
The founders are looking to merge more with international film festivals, including the Durban film festival in South Africa. They are also engaging filmmakers on the ground by hosting a networking session and promoting filmmakers through the Afrinolly Short Film competition. Even if the bandwidth issues have hindered the growth of the streaming service in most African parts, this has not slowed down the growth of the service in and around the Continent.
Editor’s Note: This article is contributed by Vincent Matinde for YourStory Africa.
Vincent Matinde is a tech journalist specializing around the African tech scene.
Catch him on twitter: @matinde