Confession. I started writing this six months ago and kept on meaning to finish and post. So here it is.
The evolution of video entertainment is a wonder to behold. Where once television ruled, the space has become highly competitive with everyone from the teenager in their bedroom to YouTube content producers to Netflix to media houses/practitioners reaching beyond their traditional mediums jumping into the fray. Multichoice (initially M-Net), which has had a monopoly on the satellite TV front, particularly in South Africa, has had to compete on multiple fronts, and has repositioned itself as a video entertainment and internet company.
The launch of compact packages as well as Showmax were all designed to pre-empt the possible encroaching of other platforms into Multichoice’s market share. While Top TV, for example, was able to break the stranglehold, Netflix has established itself as an alternative to Multichoice, particularly for those who aren’t particularly interested in sports. But, at the same time, because Multichoice had already licensed some of Netflix’s top shows, they haven’t been available in South Africa on Netflix.
The reality is that we are spoiled for choice. Beyond Showmax and Netflix, Apple TV and Amazon’s Prime Video are available on the continent to stream video content. The one company that I have been watching with interest since it was launched in late 2015 is Kwesé, a brand of Econet Media which is a subsidiary of Zimbabwean Strive Masiyiwa’s telecommunications, media and technology group, Econet.
Kwesé has, over the last two years, built a strong presence within the pay and free-to-air TV spaces as well as digitally, through the establishment of strategic partnerships, across the continent, excluding South Africa. This has included partnerships with an array of platforms, broadcasters, content producers, etc. such as ESPN, Vice, iflix, etc.
Continentally, they have secured rights, through Kwesé Sports for various sporting leagues and events, such as the English Premier, the NBA, IAAF Athletics and the Olympic Games. Kwesé TV itself is available in about 15 countries across the continent such as Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda and needs the installation of a dish and decoder. They do make Kwesé Free Sports available on free-to-air television in a couple of countries including Nigeria, Uganda, Namibia, Rwanda and Zambia.
In Ghana and Zimbabwe, they have Kwesé Pulse, a mobile video entertainment app for which one can get a subscription pass for 1, 3, 7 and 30 days and get access to 15 streaming channels like Liverpool TV, NBA TV, Revolt, Viceland and Kwesé Free Sports as well as Video-On-Demand Content.
Kwese In South Africa
For the South African market, they launched Kwesé Play, a Roku powered set-top box, that comes with HDMI slot, Ethernet port and USB and micro SD ports as well as a separate remote and up to 1080p video support. All you need is a television that has at least one HDMI port and a decent internet connection, whether ADSL or fibre, for streaming.
Setting up an account is relatively straightforward and painless and you have access to over 100 streaming channels, although you do have to install the majority that you want to watch. Some are free with others requiring subscription. Launched in collaboration with Netflix, you receive a three-month free subscription to Netflix. Because I already had an account, I wasn’t charged for that 3 months.
Other channels include TED, Red Bull TV, NBA League Pass, TuneIn Radio, YouTube, Al Jazeera and Boomberg TV. There are kids, cooking, news, education, music and movie channels.
In My Home
I run Kwesé Play on the second TV in my home. To be honest, we probably run Netflix on it more that anything else although the children do enjoy some of the children’s content and I will, occasionally, watch TED talks. Some of the other channels like movies require that you subscribe and I am still debating about paying for an NBA subscription. And that is what I feel sets it apart. The ability to access Netflix, NBA League Pass, Red Bull TV and the like using it on your telly. Oh, we do play some of the games on it every now and then.
I do look forward to seeing how it will evolve in what is an increasingly competitive market.