French media company, Canal+, joins the race for original African content by acquiring a major Nollywood film studio

ROK studio, founded by Mary Njoku, has been acquired by Canal+

A newcomer has joined the race for original African content. Vivendi's french television company Canal+ has just acquired ROK film studios from VOD company IROKO TV for an undisclosed amount.

Announcing the deal on July 15, 2019, via a public statement, the Lagos-based studio said, "ROK will produce thousands more hours of Nollywood content to deliver movies and original TV series for Canal+ Group's audiences."

ROK studio has already produced over 500 movies, 25 TV shows and reaches 15 million subscribers across DSTV and GOTV platforms. This makes it Nigeria's largest production house.

Mary Njoku, actor, producer, and founder of the studio, which launched in 2013, shared more details of the acquisition, which is the first of its kind in Nollywood's billion-dollar industry.

In her words, "ROK has captured the imagination of millions of movie fans, and they have truly supported us as we've grown the company to celebrate and enjoy our African culture. I'm excited to be taking our platform on the next stage of its journey with Canal+ Group, who share our passion for creating original content, supporting new talent and together, we have ambitious plans for the future."

Noting that this international acquisition is a great sign for Nigeria's movie industry, she added, "When a company as big as Canal+ acknowledges and is ready to work with us to export Nollywood, it sends out a positive signal to the movie industry. Filmmakers are assured that they are doing something right."

According to Canal+ International CEO Jacques du Puy, the acquisition is an opportunity for the ROK brand to expand outside the continent.

"Through this acquisition, Canal+ Group is very happy to develop and enhance the catalogue of Nollywood contents and expand the ROK brand inside and outside the African continent," he said.

Canal+ has acquired ROK's production, content distribution and publishing channels but will keep Njoku as the general director of ROK Productions.

"We are acquiring the talent of Mary," Canal+ Chief Content Officer Fabrice Faux told TechCrunch. We will provide administrative support, finance and equipment, but otherwise, it is our intention to give Mary maximum autonomy and creative freedom."

"We'll now be able to do things in English-speaking and French-speaking African markets…and gain access to an advertising market where we believe there's huge potential for growth," Faux added.

The ROK acquisition is not the Canal+ Group's first collaboration with a Nigerian filmmaker. Kunle Afolayan's movies can be found on the French television channel, thanks to a partnership with Air France.

Commenting on this partnership, Commercial Director of Air France/KLM, Mr Remco Bohre said: "Our partnership with Kunle Afolayan is another way of showing how excited we are –at Air France and KLM– about Nollywood and the Nigerian entertainment industry at large."

The French media company joins the likes of Netflix and China's StarTimes who have recently taken a keen interest in African stories and viewers by investing in more original content.

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