Days after news broke that her company, ROK, has been acquired by leading French audiovisual group, CANAL+, 234Star had a chat with Mary Njoku on the details of the acquisition, what it means for Nollywood and how she’s been able to transition from being an actress to a media mogul.
Read on for our very insightful chat.
234Star: Hello Mary, how are you today?
Mary: I’m great thank you.
234Star: Your company, ROK, was just acquired by CANAL+, how do you feel about that?
Mary: I am very happy. This is a major turning point for ROK which we are very proud of. It is an opportunity to bring Nollywood to a different audience, an opportunity for not just African, but global recognition of authentic African stories.
234Star: What percentage of ROK does CANAL+ now own?
Mary: ROK was fully acquired by CANAL+ which means they now own the studio and TV channels across Africa and the UK, however I will continue my leadership role as Directeur General of ROK Productions SAS, maintaining a material shareholding in the company, and still have control over all content produced under the studio.
234Star: Is there going to be a change of name?
Mary: No. We will continue to trade as ROK for now.
234Star: What does this acquisition mean for the African film industry?
Mary: This is an opportunity to place Nollywood on the global map by increasing visibility for our local talent and authentic African storytelling. It also increases our value both monetarily and in the way we are perceived internationally.
234Star: Are all the films you show on your channel produced by you?
Mary: Not all of them. We produce 30 – 40% of the films shown on ROK and 100% of the films shown on ROK2.
234Star: Are there certain criteria that the films you acquire for the channel have to meet before you even consider acquiring them?
Mary: They have to be great quality, in terms of picture quality and story. This is why we choose to create our own content as we can guarantee the quality meets the standards of the viewers. At the end of the day, we have to please the fans as they are the ones who consume the different films and series we produces such as Single Ladies, Festac Town, and Ojukwu, amongst others.
234Star: What was the transition from being an actress to being a business owner like? Did you always know that it was going to happen?
Mary: Owning a business was not planned. After acting for such a long time, I started to notice gaps in the market. In Nollywood, you have to learn to work with limited resources and be very entrepreneurial, this was how I learnt to be behind the camera. Besides being on screen, I’m very passionate about production and this led me to my role as Chief Content Officer at IROKO Partners before eventually becoming CEO at ROK Studios. Being a business owner is extremely hard work, but very rewarding. I like that fact that I can make an impact.
234Star: In your transition and setting up your business, what’s the one thing you would have done differently if you knew then what you know now?
Mary: I wouldn’t change a thing! I believe that everything happens for a reason. Everything in life leads you to a certain point. As with all business owners, I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but I have learnt from these mistakes and grown stronger from them; that’s the nature of any business, not just movie making.
234Star: Running a business isn’t exactly a walk in the park, and even more so, when you’re a woman in Nigeria. Is this your experience and what would you say has been the biggest challenge for you setting up and running ROK?
Mary: It’s definitely not a walk in the park.
The biggest challenges were definitely finding the right team and talent, once we got the hang of these, we were able to move forward and create the great content that you see now on your screens.
I’m grateful for the respect and support I have from my husband, Jason. He’s the reason I am able to balance being a good mother, a good wife and an even better boss at ROK.
234Star: Lastly, are we ever going to see you in movies again?
Mary: Oh certainly. My first love is acting. Before becoming a producer, I was first acting, so I will continue.