On 30 January 2017, Econet Media, a subsidiary of Econet Wireless owned by founder Strive Masiyiwa, officially launched it’s Pay TV service, Kwese TV, to African consumers. The new services boasted over 60 channels covering sports, entertainment, and movies.
It was a welcome competition for DSTV which had so far dominated many African homes with their offering of movies, entertainment, and especially English Premier League games.
Unfortunately, Kwese TV couldn’t live up to expectations and momentum after it launched. In 2019, Econet shut down the subscription model and cut off third-party channels. The service now carries free-to-air religious programs, news, and sports channels with no monthly fees.
During its two-year run, Kwese TV had accumulated 10,000+ subscribers across 12 African countries which was far short of its competitor, DSTV, which has over 13.5 million subscribers across the continent.
The Joker Card: Sports
Even though DSTV had an early start, DSTV always had the joker card when facing off against its new competitor: Exclusive Sports Rights
DSTV had exclusive broadcast rights to sports broadcasting including the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, UEFA Champions League and Italian Serie A. That only made it to the go-to service for watching football games.
Kwese TV had made it interesting by offering other sports alternatives such as the NBA and NFL but it wasn’t enough to sway African consumers to make the full time switch. But even in that arena, Kwese TV had struggled to keep up with those broadcasting rights with reports of the company missing out on payments for broadcast deals.
DSTV Is The Juggernaut That Is Hard To Stop
Many had hoped that Kwese TV could be a worthy competitor to DSTV but it looks like we have to wait a bit longer to see a competitor.
With its massive headstart and exclusive sports rights, DSTV is squarely embedded in many African homes and countries and trying to compete against this juggernaut will always be an insurmountable task.
Two competitors had come out of Nigeria to take on DSTV: HiTV and TSTV. Both companies had tried to secure sports rights but run into several roadblocks along the way. HiTV shut down in 2011 and TSTV doesn’t seem to have managed to make much of a dent in Nigeria.
Will We Get Another “Kwese TV”?
High hopes and hype couldn’t carry Kwese TV very far. But will we ever get another Kwese TV? Most industry folks are looking at companies like Netflix to take on DSTV. Although Netflix is starting to focus on more African content, the question is whether the company will ever focus on sports which doesn’t seem likely.
Amazon, on the other hand, might take an interest if it ever decides to come to the African market. The company has gotten rights to the English Premier League for its Amazon Video Prime product. But whether the Jeff Bezos company will ever venture into the African market with Amazon Prime is anyone’s guess.
If anyone wants to take on DSTV, they have to come with two things: Money and Ability To Secure Rights.
Until then, DSTV will have a stranglehold on the African continent with its Pay TV service.