Photograph — NBBF Nigeria

Nine months after African PayTV service Kwese TV ceased operations, Econet Group has confirmed the shutdown of its entertainment unit, Econet Media Limited, under which the Kwese brand operates. The entertainment company which was launched in 2015 discontinued its services starting August 5th, 2019, a press release on the company’s website said.

Before its dissolution, Kwese provided affordable premium content to audiences across Africa via Pay-TV, Free-to-Air TV, and Digital Platforms. In its years of operation, Kwese TV garnered tens of thousands of subscribers across more than 12 African countries.

Back in November, Econet Media revealed that Kwesé was 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.

According to the company, the shutting down of the PayTV service was part of a review of its business strategy and service offerings “to maintain its position as a leader in broadcasting innovation in Africa” and also align with “the changes in the global digital and satellite broadcasting sector, and growth in access to mobile and fixed broadband” in the continent.

However, the Econet Media company has been dissolved four years after launch. “It is a difficult decision that we could not postpone,” the Zimbabwe-based Group said. “The Econet Group invested heavily into Econet Media and supported the business over the period it operated without any third-party funding. Unfortunately, market conditions and content price inflation got in the way of us completing our mission.”

Reports suggest that the economic conditions in Zimbabwe and the current business operating environment characterized by an acute shortage of foreign currency led to the demise of the company. Meanwhile, other reports point to the fiercely competitive PayTV market and the broader entertainment industry in Africa as being the reason for Econet Media shutdown.

Rightly so, Kwese’s shutdown may not be unconnected to the ‘superpower’ of DSTV – a satellite service owned by South Africa’s MultiChoice – which has dominated the African Pay-Tv market space for several years now. The service has made sports broadcasting its major attraction, boasting of broadcast rights to the most-watched soccer leagues in Africa, such as the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, UEFA Champions League, and Italian Serie A.

DSTV also spends heavily to deliver local entertainment content as it has invested millions of dollars in original local content, through its Africa Magic channels. DSTV has over 13.5 million subscribers across Africa, with seven million in South Africa alone.

Currently, DSTV’s most obvious competitor for the PayTV space in Anglophone Africa is StarTimes, a Chinese-owned pay-TV company with over 10 million subscribers. The company strategically targets the mass market audiences that cannot afford DSTV because of its expensive subscription prices. However, DSTV has been able to respond to this challenge by launching GOtv, a less expensive version of the satellite TV service.

Also, Nigerian-owned pay-TV, TSTV, declared its intentions to launch in 2017. However, the company failed to deliver its services as a result of a controversy over its sports content agreements and a string of technical difficulties. Aside from PayTV, DSTV has a video streaming and video-on-demand platform, Showmax, recently launched to rival foreign competitors such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and notable local players like IRokoTV.

The dissolution of Kwese (Econet Media) goes on to highlight how tough it is to crack the nut of Africa’s pay-TV and entertainment market as well as the dominance of DSTV with its ability to withstand competition in an aggressive industry.

By Ishola Tobiloba

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