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Econet’s Kwesé TV looking to take on DStv’s dominance in Africa

This week Econet Media – a subsidiary of telecommunications company Econet Group founded by Zimbabwean Strive Masiyiwa – launched its pay-TV satellite service Kwesé TV. The service can be accessed via the company’s own satellite and decoder, and is currently available to viewers in Ghana, Rwanda and Zambia – the first countries to grant a licence. It is expected to roll out in other key territories by the end of April.

The pay-TV market in Africa has been mostly dominated by MultiChoice’s DStv, which is owned by the continent’s largest internet and media company, Naspers. According to Econet Media’s president and group CEO, Joseph Hundah, the group’s management noticed an opportunity for a competitor in the pay-TV space. The onset of voice-over-IP (VoIP) services had cut into the telco’s traditional voice-call profits and management started looking at ways the company could tap into the rising demand and consumption of mobile data.

“We began looking at how we can develop a business and get content that can be used by our data subscribers. And as we started doing this we realised that there was actually a lucrative opportunity for us to go into media in total and that there really was a gap for pay-TV in the African market,” Hundah told How we made it in Africa.

Econet Media initially started with a sports offering, which includes the free-to-air channel Kwesé Free Sports and two premium channels Kwesé Sports 1 and 2. These are available in 20 countries as either dedicated channels or aired through third-party affiliates. Content can also be viewed via the Kwesé App and the digital platform.

Last year, Kwesé partnered with the American cable TV channel ESPN to allow the network to exclusively air ESPN licensed content. ESPN had previously held a similar partnership with DStv, but decided to withdraw its content in 2013 – stating its operations were no longer considered financially viable.

At the moment, Kwesé TV has 45 channels – containing 20-30% African content – and Hundah says additional channels planned for the near future. It is also adopting a multi-platform broadcasting strategy to cater for different consumer preferences.

“We don’t want a product that you consume only on TV, or only on your mobile, or only on your iPad, or on broadband. We want to try make sure our content is available across all platforms,” explains Hundah.

The monthly full subscription option currently costs US$25 (excluding VAT). However, the company is also testing a pay-as-you-watch model. For example, a three-day viewing package costs $4 while a one week subscription costs $7.50. Hundah says this better addresses the needs of travellers and financially-constrained viewers who want more flexible payment options.

Competitive advantage

DStv’s dominance in its home market means that Econet Media is currently not planning to expand its pay-TV satellite service to South Africa. However, Hundah says there is potential for its OTT digital platforms and services in the country, considering the market’s strong penetration of mobile and broadband usage.

As for the rest of the continent, Hundah believes Kwesé TV’s satellite service will be a welcomed option for African viewers.

“I think our competitive advantage is really focusing towards a younger market and therefore all our products and services are geared towards that – especially on the mobile side… And of course an important thing is our pricing, and the flexibility that we are providing around our pricing options,” he continues.

“But I think ultimately it all about creating choice. For a long time consumers could only have MultiChoice, and nothing else.”

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  • David Goliath

    Both GTV and Starsat (exTOPTV) had a go and failed. Starsat came into South Africa with a “we have the biggest balls on the block syndrome” and now they are struggling to activate 200 new customers a month with a substantial churn rate “limp dick syndrome.”

    This is not about offering viewers choice, they have plenty of choice on DSTV.This is about acquiring good quality appealing premium content on an exclusive basis, if you cannot afford it don’t waste your time and money on rights like ESPN and studio content, its expensive and will not suffice to drive up subscriber acquisition as it has very little resonance in your target market.

    In short you need to take out Supersports entire football offering, or at the very least the English Premier League. if you cannot do this, then the money you are spending on other content is a total waste of time, and will not contribute to driving subscriber acquisition aggressively.
    Premium football rights is what drives and retains pay-tv subscription in Africa regardless of what distribution platforms you are using.
    DSTV definitely needs competition, so I wish you the best of luck

    • Samuel

      DSTV needs to also be innovative by introducing a ”PAY AS YOU WATCH” otherwise, we bought decorders that we are failling to use since no one stays at home during working days, we only watch off-work and during public Holidays/Week-Ends. So it is NOT cost effective for some of us to continue monthly subscriptions. Guys move with the Economic Trends.

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