The Devil is still in Distribution

As seen on Jason Njoku’s blog


This afternoon I bought a very good quality copy of Half of a Yellow Sun. For $3 (N500). This made me sad. I was one of the many millions who read the book. As an impressionable young Igbo boy, I even went as far as to buy copies and pass them around to friends to encourage them to read the ‘Biafra Story’. I was amongst the throngs of people who patiently waited over the last few years for the release of the widely anticipated cinema adaption. One of the most requested movies on iROKOtv is Half Of a Yellow Sun. So I knew things were real. I desperately tried to acquire the title for iROKOtv but thus far, I have been unsuccessful.

I have written before about the Titanic struggle going on at the heart of distribution of content in Nigeria; the overarching power of Alaba in all things distribution and their ability to essentially do as they please.

Alabanomics’ is real.

We are still nowhere in terms of protection of intellectual property. We are nowhere in terms of realising the vast potential of capturing (legally) the hundreds of millions of dollars in value created from content in Nigeria. HOAYS just crystallised this for me. The distribution of game is all about Content, Cost and Convenience.

Any platform. Online or off. PayTV, DVD, Internet TV, Free to Air TV, Digital TV, Cinema – they are all bound by these fundamental 3 C’s.


All content is available in Nigeria. Game of Thrones, Suits, Iron Man 3, Spartacus, Breaking Bad, Thor et al. They are all here. They are free or inexpensive to acquire. Costs? Like, $3 each and they are super convenient. We have maybe 50 screens in the whole of Nigeria. Between Anthony and Ikeja (a 1km drive) I saw 6 different sellers and I wasn’t even looking. I would hazard to guess that HOAYS is available on most street corners in Lagos (if not Nigeria). Illegally. Cinema just cannot compete.

From my dealings with Alaba, I know an average Nollywood movie can move 50-100,000 copies. Blockbusters can move 1m+ units easily. HOAYS is comfortably the most well know title to ever be released by a Nigerian production house. With tons and tons of free press. From my understanding, the piracy started before it even, after great delay, hit the cinemas.

I hear HOAYS has been widely embraced in Nigeria at the cinema. I think it would have done significantly better had it managed to go out on its initial release date. Nonetheless, it will still generate upwards of N50m ($300k+) locally. It could have done significantly more than that but the dislocation between the 170m population potential and the devils waiting in the distribution of content here in Nigeria is evidently still apparent. The Hollywood folks I have spoken to don’t even really consider Africa (outside of SA) a relevant market. The building blocks are not really in place to capture the value of what has been created. And that is a shame. But that is still the opportunity for PayTV (DTH, DTT and Internet TV) to add value. There are literally billions of USD in the system. It just needs to be discovered.

But it will take time. The odds are stacked against the new entrants. It will take huge amounts of capital and require abnormal amounts of emotional and intellectual capital. And still, the most likely result is failure.

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