By Modupe Gbadeyanka
World’s leading Subscription Video on Demand (SVoD) service for emerging markets, iflix, has announced completing a $133 million funding round as it continues to deliver on its vision of bringing the world’s best entertainment to its audiences.
The funding round, which attracted significant interest from both new investors and existing shareholders, was led by Hearst, one of America’s largest diversified media, information and services companies, and also included additional new investors Singapore-based EDBI and clients of DBS private bank.
Existing shareholders Evolution Media, Sky PLC, Catcha Group, Liberty Global, Jungle Ventures and PLDT Inc. also increased their investments.
Since going live in May 2015, iflix rapidly established a clear leadership position in emerging markets, setting a new standard for delivering a world-class streaming entertainment service, passionately focused on local customer experiences.
Over the last 12 months, the service has seen extraordinary growth across all segments of the business, expanding from four markets to 19 across Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
The company has additionally built deep integrated distribution partnerships with 27 leading telecommunications operators to bundle the iflix service with customers’ mobile and data subscriptions, all sponsored by the telecommunications provider.
During the period, iflix also achieved tremendous growth across subscriber numbers and engagement by 3x and 2x respectively, and recorded some of the highest average active mobile viewing durations of any service in the world at 2.5-2.75 hours per session.
The company saw 230 percent growth in year on year revenue, and increased its commitment to localization, producing 26,000 hours of subtitles in nine languages, with locally-curated content in every market.
iflix’s full content library showcases thousands of award-winning and iconic first run programs and library content from over 230 studio partners from 30 countries.
The new round brings total funding raised by iflix this calendar year to an excess of $220 million. Proceeds from the round will be used to invest in its local content strategy.
iflix recently unveiled its first exclusive original production, Oi Jaga Mulut, an audacious, uncensored, no holds barred stand-up comedy series, which since debuting in Malaysia last week, has skyrocketed to the leading show on the service.
Partnering with TVOne, iflix also launched live premiere football streaming, available for the first time in Indonesia, which immediately became one of the highest performing shows there with more than 34,000 unique viewers tuning in the first week of airing.
Last week, iflix Philippines announced its collaboration with the Philippines’ Queen of All Media, Kris Aquino, to commission an original drama series.
iflix Co-founder and Group CEO Mark Britt said: “We are thrilled to welcome Hearst President and CEO Steven Swartz and Hearst Entertainment & Syndication President Neeraj Khemlani to the iflix family. As iflix continues to grow and pioneer new ways for consumers to enjoy entertainment on their terms, we were looking for a partner who could bring additional expertise and knowledge to our business.
“Hearst is a leading investor and has many of the world’s most innovative and iconic video brands, including ESPN, A+E Networks, Vice, AwesomenessTV, Complex and more. This collaboration significantly deepens our bench of experts with our longstanding partners Evolution Media, Sky and Liberty Global to help drive iflix’s continuing growth.”
“From the beginning, our vision for iflix has been to build a word-class service for the local customer, transforming the way everyday consumers enjoy entertainment in emerging markets. These new funds will allow us to further execute on our local content strategy and expand our technology and development teams so we can continue to rapidly evolve the iflix service to meet the unique challenges of emerging markets,” continued Britt.
President of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication Neeraj Khemlani said: “iflix is riding the wave of exponential growth of the middle class in emerging markets that want more access to premium regional, local and Western content. We look forward to working with our new partners Sky, Liberty Global, Evolution Media and Catcha Group, as well as emerging market telcos, to support iflix’s innovative founders and management team in their rapid expansion plans.”
Founding shareholders Evolution Media and Catcha Group have participated in all preceding capital raisings and further increased their support this round.
Evolution Media Founder and Co-Managing Partner Rick Hess said: “As a founding partner of iflix, Evolution Media, along with Catcha Group and Mark, were inspired by the opportunity to reach the ‘next’ 1bn consumers. The phenomenal growth of iflix has challenged many of the preconceptions we have in Hollywood about how entertainment is consumed in emerging markets around the world. It’s fascinating to see iflix learn, scale and forge this new path.”
Catcha Group Co-founder and Group CEO Patrick Grove commented: “Today marks the next step in our journey in creating a category defining company that revolutionizes the way people in emerging markets consume and enjoy content. Since launching in May 2015, iflix has consistently delivered an exceptionally high-value service with strong, unparalleled focus on customer experience.”
iflix was advised by Moelis & Company LLC, Delta Partners and Herbert Smith Freehills on the transaction.
Starlink is Now Available in Nigeria—SpaceX Confirms
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Nigerians and tech startup owners can now heave a sigh of relief as Starlink is now available in Nigeria, according to SpaceX.
The internet service provider is owned by a billionaire businessman and owner of Twitter, Mr Elon Musk.
The federal government held meetings with the management of the company to introduce its services in Nigeria. The network was earlier expected to commence its operations in the country last month.
However, after the wait, SpaceX has confirmed the availability of the Starlink network in the country and would be expected to take a huge chunk of the broadband market with competitors like MTN, Glo, Airtel, 9mobile, Smile, Spectranet, and Swift.
Nigeria is the first African country to receive Starlink service.
“Starlink is now available in Nigeria, the first African country to receive the service,” a message posted on the Twitter handle of SpaceX on Monday night stated.
Starlink, according to its profile on Wikipedia, is a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, providing satellite Internet access coverage to 47 countries. It also aims for global mobile phone service after 2023.
With Starlink, users can engage in activities that historically have not been possible with satellite internet, as its high-speed, low-latency service is made possible via the world’s largest constellation of highly advanced satellites operating in a low orbit around the Earth.
CBN Gives Interswitch Payments Service Holding Company License
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
A Payments Service Holding Company (PSHC) license has been granted to Interswitch Group by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
This followed an earlier announcement by the CBN regarding new licensing categories for participants in the Nigerian payments system.
The integrated payments solution provider is among the first to receive this authorisation from the country’s apex bank.
According to the regulator, the PSHC regulation requires companies with existing or prospective operations across multiple license categories to set up a PSHC. The activities of each of the PSHC subsidiaries operating within those respective licensing regimes are clearly delineated for clearer accountability, effective risk management and the enablement of better regulatory oversight by the CBN.
A statement from Interswitch, a leading financial technology in Africa, outlines that Interswitch’s Group Holding Company retains ownership of the PSHC in Nigeria as well as its other subsidiaries outside of Africa.
The issuance of the PSHC licence coincides with Interswitch’s 20th-anniversary commemoration, which has seen the company cement its position as a pioneering and integral enabler that has actively supported the growth and development of fintech and payments progressively across Africa over the last 20 years.
It also serves to reinforce Interswitch’s progressive outlook as a frontier-driving company which keeps pushing boundaries to facilitate the creation of new ecosystems that help businesses and individuals scale and thrive, in line with its purpose of inspiring Africa to greatness through innovation, value-creation and excellence.
“Twenty years ago, we placed a bet on the latent potential we saw in the introduction of e-payment channels at the time, particularly ATMs for the delivery of cash just-in-time, and today, we are gratified to see how far the financial technology and payment systems in Nigeria have grown.
“On the back of our receipt of this additional license, we remain strongly committed to a close partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria to facilitate the delivery of the Payments Vision (2025) and, of course, the National Financial Inclusion Strategy,” the founder and Group CEO of Interswitch, Mr Mitchell Elegbe, remarked.
He further reiterates Interswitch’s resolute focus on its over-arching mission to continue championing technology solutions that connect and empower individuals, businesses, and communities across the continent.
Mafab Rolls Out 5G Services in Nigeria
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Another player has joined the 5G network space in Nigeria, and it is Mafab Communications Limited, which won the licence with MTN Nigeria Plc in December 2021.
After it obtained the licence from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for $273.6 million, it delayed its rollout, while its competitor, MTN, started in August in a few cities.
Business Post reports that Mafab on Tuesday held a ceremony at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, to commence operations in the country, promising to deepen broadband penetration.
“We are fully committed to bringing the benefits of 5G services to Nigerians and deploying a network that will drive economic development with increased broadband capabilities nationwide.
“I have no doubt that the service will help deliver improvements in the fields of education, business, smart cities and entertainment,” the Chairman of Mafab, Mr Mushabu Bashir, said.
It was gathered that Mafab would largely use existing infrastructure from IHS towers and, if need be, ATC Nigeria Wireless Infrastructure Solutions as well for its operations.
Recall that last month, the NCC again auctioned the 3.5GHz spectrum, which was won by Airtel Nigeria, which intends to launch its operations very soon.
It is not certain how much the Mafab 5G network services would cost. When MTN rolled out its 5G services last year, it sold the device for N50,000 and asked interested customers to pre-order the 5G router.
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