Econet Group has announced that its pay TV subsidiary, Econet Media – which has been operating the Kwese brand, has ceased operations with effect from today – August 5, 2019.
Econet unveiled Kwesé in 2016 as a pan-African entertainment brand, providing free-to-air terrestrial television service via free channels to viewers. Apart from the FTA terrestrial television service, Kwese was also available on Kwesé Plus app for viewers in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania. The free mobile streaming app provided local content per country, offering viewers sport, entertainment and news. It have live channels, video-on-demand (VoD), and radio streaming content.
In February last year, Kwesé acquired iflix, a Malaysia-based free and subscription VoD service to boost its broadcast offering and to help it reach more customers in Africa via mobile devices. With operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa, iflix customers were able to access and watch local African and international series and movies.
By then, Kwesé was available in 13 countries, providing both pay-as-you-watch pay-TV content as well as a FTA broadcast provider via Kwesé Free Sport in over 25 countries.
However, 4 years down the road, Econet Group, founded by Zimbabwean entrepreneur Strive Masiyiwa, today announced that this was a “difficult decision that they could not postpone.”
“Over the last 4 years we sought to disrupt Africa’s media landscape and enable Africa to tell its own stories using a variety of technologies including satellite broadcast, video streaming and free-to-air TV. 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,” read the statement.
“We are particularly grateful to all our dedicated staff and contractors who have worked tireless to bring a great product to market and who until the last day believed in the Kwese story. We are also grateful to our customers and our partners who believed in the Kwese vision and who worked with us as we tried to change how Africans consume and pay for media… We deeply regret the impact that this decision has had on our staff, contractors, customers, regulators and content providers. We will engage with each of our valued stakeholders transparently and will seek to meet our obligations to each of them as provided under law.”
To reassure its other stakeholders, the group added that the rest of the Econet Group businesses continue to operate normally as each of the companies are separate legal entities with their own management teams and boards. Among these are Liquid Telecom, Econet Wireless, Cassava SmarTech, Vaya Africa and Technites Africa.
The exit of Kwese means that customers are now left with MultiChoice, StarTimes and Azam as their main payTV services options. For streaming and VoD services, there is Showmax and Netflix among others.