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Tech Econet is shutting down Kwese TV as we know it, proving just how hard it is to build a pay-TV platform in Africa

Kwesé is streamlining its services to focus on Kwesé Free Sports (KFS), its free-to-air service, Kwesé iflix, a mobile video-on-demand platform, and Kwesé Play.

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Econet is shutting down Kwese TV as we know it, proving just how hard it is to build a pay-TV platform in Africa play Kwesé payTV office (Kikonyogo Douglas Albert)

 

  • Kwesé streamlines its services to focus on Kwesé Free Sports (KFS), its free-to-air service, Kwesé iflix, a mobile video-on-demand platform, and Kwesé Play, a video streaming service

  • Econet says Kwesé subscribers who have already paid their subscriptions for the month of November, or in advance, will receive a full refund

  • The new strategy also includes the establishment of Kwesé Studios, where it will develop its own original programming.


The pay-TV market in Africa is an extremely tough nut to crack as Econet has found out with its satellite offering, Kwesé TV. The service, as we know it, shut down on November 1, 2018, after 18 long months.

In a statement, Econet Media said it is reviewing its business strategy and service offerings “to maintain its position as a leader in broadcasting innovation in Africa” and align with “the changes in the global digital and satellite broadcasting sector, and growth in access to mobile and fixed broadband” in Africa.

Kwesé is streamlining its services to focus on Kwesé Free Sports (KFS), its free-to-air service, Kwesé iflix, a mobile video-on-demand platform, and Kwesé Play, a video streaming service that includes NBA, Bloomberg, YouTube, and TED channels.

This new strategy will “see the reduction of third-party channels available on the bouquet, as well as the removal of Kwesé branded sports (excluding KFS) and general entertainment channels.” Kwesé’s new bouquet will have only free-to-air, religious, and free news channels, available to viewers for a minimal fee, as it will now waive monthly subscription fees. Essentially, Kwesé is removing most of the content that it does not originally own or that it has to pay for.

Econet says Kwesé subscribers who have already paid their subscriptions for the month of November, or in advance, will receive a full refund.

The new strategy also includes the establishment of Kwesé Studios, where it will develop its own original programming with help from “African producers, scriptwriters, actors and directors.”

Nigeria’s pay-TV wars

South Africa's Naspers is making Multichoice a standalone entity to battle Netflix play

Satellite dishes connect township residents to South Africa's DSTV television network, owned by telecommunications giant Naspers, in Khayelitsha township, Cape Town, May 19, 2017.

(REUTERS/Mike Hutchings)
 

Kwesé’s satellite TV business, launched in May 2017, is present in 11 markets, including Nigeria, which has seen its share of pay-TV companies falling by the wayside. In 2007, there was HiTV, a company that set out to combat DStv in Nigeria and provide a viable alternative. It went as far as snatching the viewing rights to the English Premier League, one of the major attractions for DStv subscribers. However, for a myriad of reasons, some of which include financing and the difficulty of the market, HiTV soon went out of business.

In 2017, Nigerians were teased with another DStv competitor, TSTV, but that has since sputtered like a faulty engine.

One of the strongest competitors for DStv’s parent company, Multichoice, in Nigeria has been StarTimes, a Chinese satellite TV company targeting the low-end market. The rise of StarTimes has forced Multichoice to double down on GOtv, which targets the same market class that the Chinese company does.

In the high-end market, Multichoice is battling Netflix. Netflix entered South Africa in 2016 and has since grown to over 400,000 subscribers. In March 2018 when it released its financial result for the year, we found out Multichoice had lost 41,000 Premium subscribers, something its CEO blames on Netflix.

Multichoice is cutting down jobs as DSTV faces stiff competition in South Africa and regulatory hurdles in Nigeria play

DSTV office

(CollegeTrap)

 

Shutting down Kwesé TV is a smart move

Kwesé tv acquires major stake in iflix Africa, takes on competition with Showmax, Netflix play

Kwesé tv acquires major stake in iflix Africa, takes on competition with Showmax, Netflix

(iflix)
 

The bone pay-TV companies have to pick, however, is not with themselves or with Netflix, it is with the evolving nature of the market. As more people get on the Internet, more of them want to stay there. The market has become digital first, people want to get their content from YouTube and Netflix and Twitter and on their smartphones. Shutting down Kwese is a smart move and it shows Econet realises its battle should be elsewhere. It is keeping Kwesé iflix and Kwesé Play. Smart.

It’s 2018 and Multichoice has not figured out (or perhaps it has and is in denial) that people are now less enthusiastic about buying bulky satellite dishes and decoders that require them to invite engineers and technicians into their homes when they can simply stream content on their laptops and smartphones.

It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of Kwesé’ with this new strategy and what the coming months hold for the pay-TV market in Africa. One thing is certain though, and it is that the Internet will be the ultimate winner here.

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