I'm guessing that, if you're like me, you had no idea the second-largest film industry in the world (behind Hollywood) is in Nigeria and is known in the industry as Nollywood. Now, thanks to the efforts of a Nigerian entrepreneur, these movies are coming to YouTube, and Hollywood should be paying attention to what this guy is doing.
According to an article on CNN.com, Jason Njkou, managing director at a company called Nollywood Love, has been purchasing the rights to Nollywood movies and uploading them to YouTube, where he makes money by running short preroll ads ahead of the movie.
The CNN article reports that the YouTube channel is boasting over 2.5 million views a week, which Nollywood Love hopes will translate into over $1 million of profits in its first year of operations. The model is simple and takes advantage of inexpensive digital technologies.
According to the site This is Nollywood, which is marketing a documentary about the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood produces hundreds of low-budget movies a year under difficult conditions. The movies, which go straight to DVD and VCD disks, have proven tremendously popular.
If you want to see what these films are like, go to Nollywood Love's YouTube channel. The quality is poor. The acting is stilted, and the camera often shakes. In the couple of samples I watched, the credits were blurry and difficult to read, and the camera sometimes lost focus. But this is about making movies quick and dirty, and if 50,000 people buy them directly, and millions more view them online, there is real money to be made in the volume.
This is never going to be a threat to the slick Hollywood film industry with its multimillion-dollar budgets, but what we have here is an industry that has taken advantage of the opportunity offered by Internet distribution and digital technologies and run with it.
Unlike the Hollywood media machine, which is mostly deathly afraid digital distribution will threaten its huge profits, Nollywood is making money by producing low-quality entertainment people want to see for a fraction of the cost of Hollywood blockbusters. And it is using Internet distribution systems to make even more.
The Nigerian industry can see what Hollywood can't see or refuses to acknowledge: There is money to be made in distribution on the Internet. Hollywood (more specifically, its mouthpiece, the Motion Picture Association
of America) sees the Internet as a place for pirates to steal their content, instead of a channel for selling it.
Yet PaidContent.org reported this month that Comcast's newly acquired NBCU division made money last quarter specifically through agreements with companies like Netflix to retransmit content over the Internet.
This shouldn't come as a surprise, but apparently, big media companies still don't understand the opportunity the Internet represents. This is something Nollywood executives have been able to figure out and take advantage of to the tune of millions of dollars in revenue.
Hollywood would never lower its quality to the level of Nollywood, but the success of the Nigerian film industry suggests there is more than one way to make money in this business. And that's something even Hollywood can learn from.
— Ron Miller is a freelance technology journalist, blogger, FierceContentManagement editor, and contributing editor at EContent magazine.