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Zimbabwe Business mogul builds broadcasting empire to challenge MultiChoice DSTV

by Thabiso Mochiko – BusinessDayLive

10 Jan 2017 at 12:38hrs | 3631 Views

Econet Group is building a broadcasting empire that could challenge MultiChoice’s dominance in the payTV market across the continent.

In less than two years, Econet Media, a subsidiary of Econet, which houses the broadcasting platform Kwesé, has spent millions of dollars buying a number of lucrative rights to a variety of content including entertainment and sports. It has secured rights to the US’s National Basketball Association, Women’s Tennis Association, Extreme Fighting Championship, Cricket Australia, Formula One and English Premier League.

Some of the rights are for all broadcasting platforms, while others are country-specific and also limited to either payTV platform or free-to-air.

For example, the English Premier League soccer games can only be shown on the free-to-air platform.

Some of the sports rights were held by MultiChoice.

“We are the new kid on the block and are aggressively building a strong alternative to MultiChoice,” said Econet Media CEO Joseph Hundah.

MultiChoice has dominated the satellite payTV market on the continent and at the end of September 2016, it had 11-million subscribers in Africa.

Kwesé has also secured the rights to US-based AMC Networks content, Animal Planet and music cable network TV channel Revolt.

Hundah said while not all content was exclusive, the company needed “exclusive content to be profitable”.

Kwesé aims to make its content available on free-to-air TV channels, payTV, and also via a mobile application that is in the testing stages. Kwesé will also commercially launch its payTV services in a number of countries on the continent in the coming months.

Kwesé’s free-to-air services are already running in countries including Rwanda and Kenya, where it launched a 24-hour sports channel.

The company aims to make all types of sports more accessible to everyone as previously some sporting activities were limited to subscription TV.

Laura Caetano, a research analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said there were numerous benefits of “truly digitising sports such as bringing attention to the lesser-known sports that are generally not given any airtime, and its use as a vehicle to promote local sports, especially where smaller leagues are concerned”.

In SA, where Kwesé does not have a broadcasting licence, consumers can access its content via an app. The group may also partner with its sister company Neotel to bundle its content with some of the fixed-line operator’s products.

Neotel was bought by Liquid Telecom, a telecoms infrastructure unit of Econet.

“It makes sense for us to collaborate,” said Hundah.

Frost & Sullivan said that the video-on-demand, and payTV markets were growing rapidly as significant internet penetration and smartphone adoption in Africa alter the manner in which consumers view content. But it is critical for service providers to gauge viewership trends, price sensitivity and technical requirements.

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