[Interview] Mary Njoku, Director General, ROK Film Studios, Nigeria
Nigerian Film and Entertainment Studio, ROK, was recently acquired by French media giant, CANAL+. Mary Njoku, the leader of ROK, talks to Africa Business Communities about the aquisition and what it means for the African entertainment industry.
Please tell us about ROK and its work since inception.
ROK Studios was launched in 2013 and is a leading African film and original series studio and production house based in Lagos, Nigeria. We specialize in the creation of content in partnership with the industry’s foremost creative talent. We have developed, produced and financed movies and TV series for distribution platforms globally.
ROK owns one of the largest content libraries in Nigeria, with blockbuster films and series, as well as an Animation Studio called ROK Animations Studios.
As a TV channel, ROK reaches 15 million subscribers across DSTV and GOTV platforms in Africa alone. In the UK it reaches 12.5M viewers, producing over 540 movies and 25 original TV series including Ojukwu, Stalemate, and Being in Nollywood, amongst others.
What prompted the interest and subsequent acquisition by French media channel, CANAL+?
We have been working with CANAL+ for about 5 years in various production and distribution capacities, so when they wanted to create more Nollywood content across their platforms in French speaking Africa and other global platforms, it was a no-brainer.
It’s a win-win for us at ROK, because we now have CANAL+ as a strategic and financial partner in order to reach our true potential and scale - not only in French Speaking Africa, where CANAL+ has a huge reach, but also in other markets where we would love to produce more original content.
Following the acquisition by CANAL+, from where would ROK operate going forward?
We will continue to operate the existing ROK channels (ROK, ROK2 and ROK3 on DSTV and GOTV across Africa, and ROK on Sky in the UK), as well as CANAL+ channels across French Speaking Africa and other global platforms. We will also be filming in Ghana and Nigeria, as well as looking into new countries on the continent.
How does this acquisition by a European channel affect the content sovereignty that’s to be expected from an African film house?
I still have total control over all the content produced under ROK Studios. This way we can preserve the authenticity of the craft and produce the same and higher quality content for our viewers across all platforms. We still intend to use African talent - in front of and behind the camera.
Does the new status quo improve opportunities for aspiring actors in Nigeria, as well as Africans in diaspora?
This is an opportunity that definitely increases visibility for our local talent and authentic African storytelling. It is a step forward in putting Nollywood on the global map. Because we will be producing content for more platforms, we will certainly have to recruit more talent across Africa and the diaspora.
How, if at all, will French influence and participation benefit the African entertainment industry, seeing as both cultures are vastly different?
There's an opportunity here for us to explore the similarities and differences in both cultures, a chance to create fresh, new stories that will cut across both French and African cultures. It is not just about putting out stories on the screen, but being able to explore every opportunity to create new stories.
What can you say about the growth plans of ROK going forward?
We are looking forward to creating and exploring different types of content, especially animation and of course higher budget movies. We are working to increase viewership not only in English Speaking Africa, but also in French Speaking Africa, and beyond.
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