MediaFile

African Web video service Iroko raises more funds, targets cable TV

A store in Nairobi, Kenya selling Nollywood movies (Photo: Reuters)

Iroko Partners, an online distributor of African movies and music, has raised another $2 million in its latest round of funding from a Swedish venture capital group as it seeks to take the service to cable and satellite TV partners in the U.S. and Europe.
The Lagos, Nigeria-based company raised the funds from Sweden’s Kinnevik, an early investor in Groupon Inc. Iroko previously raised $8 million from U.S.-based hedge fund Tiger Global in April as investors in emerging markets seek to tap into one of the fastest growing movie businesses in the world.

Kinnevik investments head, Henrik Persson, said his firm, which has invested in African telecoms, sees tremendous opportunity in African media and online services. “It has very low penetration and we see a really strong growth trend. He added: “A part of our investment philosophy is that we think that the perceived risk is higher than the real risk in this market..what people see as a lack of opportunity is a lack of supply.”

Iroko has focused on forming partnerships with most of Nigeria’s leading filmmakers for distribution on its own platform as well as with major partners like Google Inc’s YouTube.
Though the majority of Iroko’s operations are based in Lagos, it also has set up offices in London and New York.
Founder Jason Njoku said the majority of the company’s revenues come from users across the African Diaspora in the United States, Britain and Canada and other countries outside the continent.
The Nigerian movie industry is now widely acknowledged as the third largest after Hollywood and India’s Bollywood in terms of the number of movies produced. While so-called Nollywood movies are typically distributed within Nigeria and around the world on DVD or Video-CD discs, Njoku spotted a gap in the market to digitize the movies for online distribution. Most of the Web viewers have been in developed countries with fast-enough Internet traffic speeds to enable video streaming.
The company’s revenues are predominantly generated through advertising around the movies. But in July it launched a monthly subscription with the promise of earlier windows for fans to catch new films without advertising.
Since launching two weeks ago the subscription service Iroko TV has signed up just under 5,000 paying subscribers according to Njoku. It already had 560,000 registered users since the Iroko TV service launched in January.
“Our users have such an intense relationship with the content, they spend hours watching.”
Njoku said the new funding will focus primarily on helping expand operations outside Nigeria. He said the next stage for the company is to find ways of licensing its partners’ content to cable, satellite TV companies and international airlines.
“The Internet is one of the most poorly monetized platforms for content,” said Njoku. “Since we’re platform-agnostic it would be mad for us not to try and form relationships with TV.”
Iroko sees itself as a global business with pan-African roots so it is also looking to license more movies and other content from around Africa from countries like Ghana and Kenya among others.

AOL, Yahoo, Demand Media set sights on the ladies

It’s early October in New York which means that Advertising Week, which kicked off on Monday, is officially in full churn.   This year, the organizers of the conference that attracts all stripes from publishing outfits to retailers to ad agencies  may as well have slugged the event Ladies Week given the number of companies pitching to women.

Specifically that would be AOL, Yahoo and Demand Media all of which launched in the past couple of days “premium” video channels catering to the women, and, by extension, consumer packaged goods companies looking for a means to place their online advertising dollars.

AOL rolled out more than 15 original Web series some aimed at the ladies with such titles as “Little Women, Big Cars,” ” A Supermodel Stole My Husband,” and “Jocks & Jills.” (An aside: AOL also touted its “You’ve Got” one minute series lumping in President Barack Obama with other “notables” such as Kevin Bacon and Paula Abdul.)

Should media owners rethink Hulu sale plan?

BTIG’s Rich Greenfield is an analyst who seems to have never met a contrarian debate on the media business he didn’t like. This morning, he turned his attention towards online video site Hulu, arguing in a research note that its owners should think twice about selling the business (subscription needed). First round bid for Hulu, which is owned by News Corp., Disney, Comcast, and Providence Equity Partners, are due Wednesday and are expected to reach as high as $2 billion.

In his note, Greenfield, known for his embrace of hyperbole, says selling Hulu is “a mistake of epic proportions.” He says Hulu is the perfect weapon for combating cable TV’s excessive ad load, supercharging on-demand TV, and for integrating social media’s impact on how consumers watch TV.

Greenfield asks why Hulu owners would sell now, at a time when Hulu is growing viewers, advertising and subscription revenues. As he sees it, on-demand online video is clearly the future and big media would be better served having a say in how the future of video distribution over the long-term is shaped rather than handing Hulu over to Google, Amazon, Yahoo or some of the companies that are supposed to be interested.

A chat with Google’s Seattle video-chat guru

If you want to be at the forefront of video social networking, Seattle is the place to be, not Silicon Valley.

A month ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced an “awesome” launch coming out of the company’s growing Seattle office, which turned out to be Facebook’s video chat link up with Skype.

About the same time, Google trial-launched its broadside against Facebook, the social Google+ service. One of the most arresting features is Hangouts, a service that lets up to 10 people video-chat simultaneously. And it’s designed by a bunch of engineers just the other side of Lake Washington in Seattle.

Clicker.com tells you what to watch and where to find it

SWITZERLAND/

As the number of TV networks and programs has exploded in the last decade, a major concern for cable companies has become how will viewers find their favorite shows among 1,000 channels. The problem has gotten even worse with the availability of more and more TV shows online, where some of the helpful network silos have disappeared altogether.

So where do you go if you want to see last night’s episode of Modern Family, then follow it with episode 6 of Season 3′s Mad Men, before checking out if your favorite Indiana Jones movie is online?

You go to Clicker.com, a year-old Los Angeles-based programming guide for Internet television founded by former Ask.com chief executive Jim Lanzone. True to his roots in search, Lanzone and his team have created a comprehensive database so a user can find every legally available TV show and movie available online.

Hulu to charge? It’s getting closer…

Everybody loves free. But free has a price. And that price might just be $9.95 a month, according to The Los Angeles Times,  which writes that Hulu, the second most popular video site in the U.S, will soon start charging for a premium version of its site called Hulu Plus. We haven’t been able to confirm the details yet (Hulu’s staffers are sticking to the ol’ decline to comment). But rumors of premium version of Hulu have been doing the rounds for the last year. Back in October an NBC executive said the company was experimenting with various business models, including subscription content.

Let’s also not forget Hulu is soon to be a third owned by Comcast (through its ongoing acquisition of NBC) — which is not known for giving video programming away for free. Its other parents, News Corp and Disney, also aren’t known for their charity in the video programming business.

And it’s not just Hulu, YouTube has also started to experiment with pricing models and has indicated it would be open to subscription models if its content partners asked for it.

YouTube has 24 hours of video uploaded every minute

YouTube, the world’s most popular video site, has just revealed that a whole day’s worth of online video is uploaded to its servers every single minute. That’s a mind-boggling statistic when you bear in mind this site is just five years old.

Last May YouTube, which is owned by search giant Google, revealed up to 20 hours of video are uploaded every minute.YouTube hours of video graph Clearly more and more people are using online video and this graphic from the YouTube blog shows the trajectory.

YouTube: “We’re still kings of the world!”

YouTube, the video site, is celebrating the third anniversary since it was bought by Google with news that it now serves more than a billion views a day to users around the world.

In a blog by YouTube CEO and co-founder Chad Hurley, he reminisces about how he and co-founder/former CTO Steve Chen made a fun video declaring themselves the “burger kings of media”. How sweet.

But on the serious side of the media equation Hurley has some important points about the fast changing world of online video (You could also call it the ‘why we won’ manifesto).

Comcast’s Fancast tries TV ads to catch Hulu’s coat tails

When most Americans think of where to catch up with episodes of their favorite TV shows on the Web, they more than likely think of Hulu, the online video site owned by NBC, News Corp and Disney that offers free viewing of TV broadcast shows and archive movies. Second to Hulu would probably be YouTube.But not Fancast. Despite being owned by the largest U.S. cable TV operator Comcast, it doesn’t even make the top 10 video sites in the U.S., according to comScore data. (Hulu is No. 5). One of the ways Hulu became better known was by launching a national TV advertising campaign which kicked off during this year’s Super Bowl TV extravaganza. Hulu’s user numbers jumped after those ads — and Fancast hopes for a similar boost.Fancast has dubbed its debut TV campaign “See It For Yourself” and will feature a series of five spots with recaps of shows including CSI Miami, Glee, NCIS, How I Met Your Mother and Gilligan’s Island. Three TV spots will debut on CBS and also on targeted national cable networks. See the Fancast/CSI ad here: The campaign also features an online push and an outdoor drive with interactive bus shelters around the San Francisco area.In truth, beating Hulu might not be Comcast’s biggest prize. It’s more likely to have its eye on its On Demand Online /TV Everywhere initiatives, which aim to make popular cable shows available on demand to paying subscribers. Fancast will be one of Comcast’s key platforms for that new service when it fully rolls out so building awareness of the site now is important.(Photo: CSI Miami’s David Caruso/Reuters)

Cloud-gaming service OnLive opens up

OnLive, the “cloud-based” gaming service that generated plenty of interest when it was announced in May, is opening itself up.

The company is aiming to challenge game console makers Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony with a bold and ambitious service: on-demand, lag-free access to graphically rich games, which can be played on any TV and nearly any PC, even budget netbooks.

Analysts say such a product could fundamentally change the economics of the multibillion dollar video game industry. The only question is how well OnLive works, and some have expressed skepticism. Since its splashy introduction, little has been heard from the company, which was busy testing its service internally and installing servers in its data centers to handle traffic. OnLive delivers games run on servers in the cloud, rather than locally on a PC or a console.