Streaming companies around the world have been reporting monumental surges in both patronages and inadvertently revenue during the lockdown owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With that information, one would have expected IROKO, a Nigerian streaming service to make gains during the lockdown period with people forced to stay at home, thereby looking for alternative means of entertainment.
But that has not been the story as the company’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, Jason Njoku recently revealed on his personal blog that the company has been forced to place 28% of its workforce in Nigeria on unpaid leave.
Njoku noted that the Nigerian entertainment had told its workers to start work remotely before the federal government started a lockdown in Lagos and Ogun states as well as the FCT.
Jason said that with the decision to work remotely, the company was faced with a dilemma; what should they do with the over 100 contract staff who worked in outbound and offline and offline marketing teams? This was due to the fact that IROKO did not need their services anymore.
However, as IROKO was thinking about what to do with their redundant staff members, they noticed that their subscribers began to increase, hitting an all-time biggest growth just a few days after the FG-backed lockdown was instituted.
Njoku noted that the daily growth stayed steady for a while until the waves of insecurity that was inflicted on Nigerians started reducing the purchasing mood and power of customers.
Jason Njoku in the post, however, reports that unlike the Nigerian situation, IROKO’s subscribers have been growing steadily in the international market.
Njoku said, “When I saw Netflix and other international streaming services numbers surge, I wasn’t surprised. But that is an out of Africa thing. For us, the one of a kind paid-for product, that hasn’t been the case. So we had a decision to make. We had to right-size IROKO for any reality. Because you know what? No one knew what was going to happen next.”
The CEO however, elected to place 28% of his staff on unpaid leave instead of laying them off. With that decision, the staff on unpaid leave still have the option of using the company’s health insurance provision.
In a long email to his employees, the CEO explained the development and espoused the next lines of action that the company is looking to take. The CEO also informed his staff that apart from the 28% of the workforce being put on unpaid leave, the organization had elected to make 6 positions redundant, and had slashed the salary of 16% of its retained staff while over 50% of staff still retained their regular pay.
“We will provide regular updates to the companies position over these perilous times. Those of us left need to get our collective heads down working as hard as we can to entertain African in (SIC) this time. Whereas entertainment isn’t essential, it is important,” He further stated.