11 September 2017

Rwanda: Innovation Will Drive the Future of TV Industry, Says Expert

interview

Following the migration from analogue to digital television broadcasting in 2014, the Rwandan TV industry has seen a number of players enter the sector. However, despite the multiple players, investors in the sector are still trying to work out suitable business model while a large section of viewers continue to criticise the quality of local content provided.

The latest entrant into the local market is Kwese TV, an African entertainment company operating in over 10 countries on the continent.

The New Times' Collins Mwai spoke to the General Manager of Kwesé Rwanda, Leonard Magera Rucogoza on how they intend to tackle existing challenges in the market, projections as well as expert's opinion on the local TV industry.

Below are excerpts:

Kwese is the latest entrant into the Rwandan postpaid TV market which some say is saturated with service providers. What influenced the decision to join the market?

As a business we have pan-African ambitions and a goal to have a presence in every part of the continent. Rwanda was one of the countries in our initial phase of expansion because we see great potential for growth here. We feel it presents a compelling opportunity for the growth of our business in the region as well.

Furthermore the trends we see across Africa show that viewers across the continent are hungry for an alternative in the pay TV space. More and more people are looking for diversity of content and choice in terms of how they access that content, Rwanda is no different. We believe Kwesé makes for a compelling alternative for viewers here and we're excited to see how our offering will be received in the market. We therefore do not look at it as joining a saturated market but expanding options for audiences which ultimately gives them more choice.

As of the last population census in Rwanda, there were an estimated slightly over 140,000 television sets in Rwanda. The number has obviously gone up in recent years but does the size of the market affect the profitability of the venture?

Our decision to enter this market was based on thorough research on which we have based our decision to enter this market. We are confident in the potential of our business here. Audiences as indicated earlier are hungry for choice and we are providing compelling content to ensure they choose Kwese TV.

The relevance of the network and ability to beat competition will be largely determined by the levels of local content on Kwese. Does this mean that you are likely to source a lot of local content from Rwandan content producers? If yes, what is the eligibility?

We have sourced a diverse bouquet of Southern, Eastern and West African content in the form of movies, series or music content which we believe has resonance across the continent. At this stage Kwesé has a single pan-African feed which broadcasts across all markets, as a result our current African content offering focuses on programming which has continental appeal. We are proud to be a supporter of home-grown content and we are in the process of curating and producing some of this continent's finest in terms of production and original programming.

In the long-term as we establish ourselves in the market and grow our viewer base we will be in a better position to offer country specific content.

What are some of the approaches Kwese will roll out to get an edge over the rest of the players in the market?

We pride ourselves for being innovative in our approach to media. We have a number of unique value propositions one of which is our market first flexible payment options. Instead of the traditional monthly subscription, Kwesé TV subscribers are able to pay for a month, 3-day and 7-day passes. This gives viewers a level of flexibility not seen before.

In terms of our offering, we are truly multi-platform which means that our content can be accessed through a number of different ways. Viewers can watch via their TV, access up-to-date news and analysis on the web through our websites or watch our programming on-the-move via our official Kwesé apps.

Kwesé also holds a number of exclusives on the continent including our exclusive collaborative agreement with the leading sports platform ESPN, we are also the exclusive broadcast partner for the NBA in Africa. We also have a number of exclusive content partnerships in the entertainment space, including Revolt and Viceland. We recently announced our exclusive free-to-air rights for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia among other FIFA rights.

What are your growth projections in terms of viewership in the next One year?

It is our policy not to share financial details of this nature.

However, our service offering and content delivery should definitely get us there.

What is Kwese's intended contribution in the local ecosystem?

In the longer term as we establish our business in Rwanda we intend to invest in supporting local content producers. This platform we are building gives producers the opportunity to reach a pan-African audience by putting their content on a continental stage.

From a sports perspective, we are looking into supporting some local leagues. We recognise that exposure is critical to growing any sport and Kwesé aims to provide that exposure to local sporting leagues.

Following the migration from analogue to digital and the consequent increase of television networks in the country, we are yet to see a major shift in regards to popularity of TV programming in the country. What is the missing link?

I think it's fair to say that viewers are looking for a compelling reason to make that shift. The missing link is that reason and we believe that it's all in the content. Content is king and providing audiences with quality and choice will make the difference.

What has been Kwese's performance in other markets in the region and beyond?

We are a relatively new service and the feedback has been positive in the 11 countries we are presently in and we hope to be in nine more by 2018.

What are your expert's opinion on the future of pre-paid television in Rwanda?

Rwanda needs both local and foreign content, this variety demands a competitive and innovative approach to service delivery.

We have lots more to offer you and Rwanda is close to experiencing many firsts to market innovative products in the near future.

What are your expert's opinion on ways to leverage the presence of multiple networks to promote the visibility of local sports leagues across the region?

Multiple networks mean more opportunity for exposure for local sports leagues. Greater exposure and viewership will make these leagues more attractive to sponsors and attract the funding needed to sustain and grow local leagues.

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