Thursday, July 4, 2019

Kwesé Play abruptly shuttered as pay-TV subscribers lose access after Econet Media's struggling Kwesé pay-TV business is placed under administration.

Econet's Kwesé has been placed into administration with the African pay-TV operator's Kwesé Play streaming service that abruptly shut down and stopped working, with no word how its growing financial troubles will affect South Africa's just awarded Kwesé Free TV licence that is supposed to be the country's new free-to-air TV channel and in which Econet Media has a 20% stake.

Kwesé CEO Joseph Hundah confirmed to Business Day that its beleaguered pay-TV business that struggled to compete with China's StarTimes and MultiChoice's DStv has been placed under administration and that Econet has appointed Ernst & Young to manage the process.

The Kwesé Play streaming service offered through Roku devices in South African since September 2017 suddenly shut down without any warning to customers on 3 July for users in South Africa and across Southern Africa, simply saying "Econet no longer offers Kwesé Play. For more information contact Econet".

Emailed media enquiries on Thursday to Econet's PRs from TVwithThinus bounced saying their email addresses no longer exist.

On social media Kwesé Play lied to customers, saying that although it was effectively shut down it was "experiencing a challenge on the platform".

Roku in a statement said "Econet is shutting down the Kwesé Play service and is no longer working with Roku".

According to Joseph Hundah Econet, owned by Zimbabwe's richest man, Strive Masiyiwa, will start negotiations with creditors to rescue the Kwesé business.

"The group's inability to exit money out of Zimbabwe has had an impact on the business. No other business in Masiyiwa’s Econet Global group is affected by the administration process," Joseph Hundah told Business Day.

In late-June Zimbabwe abruptly announced that the American dollar, South African rand and other currencies are no longer accepted as legal tender in the country struggling with hyper-inflation and a deteriorating economy.

In March South Africa's broadcasting regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) awarded the country's first free-to-air TV licence in more than 2 decades to Kwesé Free TV  and a consortium in which Econet Media has a 20% stake.

The consortium consists of Econet Media (20%), Royal Bafokeng (45%) and Mosong Capital (35%). It's not clear what impact placing the Kwesé pay-TV division under administration will have on the Kwesé Free TV plan which is yet to launch and in its proposal told Icasa it would consist out of several Kwesé branded and packaged channels.

In November 2018 the strugglin Kwesé TV abrptly decided to get out of its satellite pay-TV business to concentrate on streaming and delivering free-to-air TV channels.