11 October 2017

East Africa: Kwesé Ventures Into EA's Growing TV Streaming Market

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Customers in Kenya of pay television channel Kwesé TV now have the option to get pay-as-you-watch packages -- an offer the operator hopes will improve its competitiveness.

A week ago, the company launched its new product in Nairobi and plans to roll it out in the other East African countries.

The pay-as-you-watch model enables customers to pay for content around particular timelines, such as top sporting events and football matches.

Fast Internet speeds in the region are driving television providers towards streaming services.

"Our business seeks to make premium content accessible and convenient and so we are introducing innovations that we believe are game-changers. Our flexible payment option enables viewers to structure their TV viewing to their lifestyle," said Kennedy Ojung'a, general manager of Kwesé TV Kenya.

Kwesé is offering three-day, seven-day and 30-day packages for its premium content. Its lowest priced package is set at $4.75.

The firm is banking the rights it got last year to air the European Premier League in sub-Saharan Africa through mobile, Internet and satellite-based platforms to push its on-demand service.

However, the firm faces an evolving market, which has seen new streaming players like Netflix and Showmax, an affiliate of Multichoice, capture the Kenyan online television market. Iflix is the latest video-on-demand service to come to Kenya.

The strength of traditional satellite television providers seems to be on sports with Multichoice's DStv banking on its rights to air English Premier League (EPL) games to maintain a market lead.

A November 2016 report by Kenya's Competition Authority suggested exclusive EPL broadcast rights have helped Multichoice stay ahead of other pay-tv competitors where sports, especially the EPL, is viewed as a major driver for pay-tv subscriptions.

In its recommendation, the competition watchdog had said Multichoice should resell its EPL rights to local pay-tv providers in order to level the playing field.

But, this is yet to be implemented.

More offers

Kwese is also offering Kenyan subscribers more than 60 channels of entertainment, current affairs and sports programming.

Earlier this year, the firm signed a four-year deal with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and FIFA, for the rights to broadcast national team football matches and the 2018 World Cup across the continent.

It also signed a deal with the United States National Basketball Association (NBA) to broadcast live games in sub-Saharan Africa.

However, with access to fast, reliable Internet increasing, the more companies like Netflix, Hulu, Malaysian video-streaming service Iflix and Showman gain popularity.

In particular, these content streaming providers are taking up the lifestyle and entertainment segment, which companies like DStv bundle together with sports.

The competition is also heating up in the satellite TV segment where DStv has been dominant for years. Fims like Chinese media giant StarTimes and Kwesé now proving to be popular alternatives, especially for the low-end market.

Two weeks ago, Kwesé launched it's Over the Top (OTT) services in partnership with telecom companies in South Africa. The firm said it would provide similar services across Africa as it seeks to also get a share of the continent's streaming market.

Kwesé Play is a streaming service that offers Netflix and other channels on-demand.

Neo Lekgabo, chief marketing officer at Econet Media said Kwesé Play will soon be made available to the rest of the continent.

"We already have agreements with mobile network operators across the continent including Safaricom, Vodafone and MTN. We will avail these services through their networks and clients will be able to access our boxers from these telecommunication firms' shops," said Mr Lekgabo.

The future of TV

In September, Naspers, which owns DStv and Showmax said its customers in South Africa would get access to Showmax at no additional cost if they are subscribing to their premium package. This is a move it hopes to replicate across the continent.

"The future of TV and entertainment generally will be converged online through either video on-demand or video-streaming services. This is why we are seeing the traditional pay-tv providers tagging along their streaming affiliates and bundling them together," said Eric Mbede, an analyst at Market Insights Group in South Africa.

The lifestyle and entertainment content, which includes the latest television series, movies and docuseries has become a free-for-all as even offline streaming services such as Kodi and Mobdro gain popularity because of giving users exclusive and unlimited access through streaming channels.

Both Kodi and Mobdro bundle news, live sports, music, and lifestyle channels, TV shows, films from providers worldwide and offer them on their sites. Kodi and Mobdro are installed in android boxes and Amazon Fire Sticks and users access the channels through the devices.

However, the two have lately become the target of copyright wars and Amazon even stopped stocking android TV boxes with pre-installed Kodi, over copyright infringement.

Mobdro gives a disclaimer in its terms and conditions where it absolves itself of any responsibility over the content it hosts.

"Mobdro has no control nor can it be held liable for the content or location of the streams, which shall be the sole responsibility of the pages on which they are hosted. Should the holder of a copyright consider that their rights have been breached, they must address the source to request its withdrawal," it says under its terms and conditions.

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