African broadcaster Econet Media has launched its 24 hour, free-to-air channel Kwese Free Sports in Rwanda, which joins Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana to have the full 24 hour channel.
The channel under its subsidiary – Econet Media – will air some English Premier League matches at no cost, available on any free-to-air set-top box.
It will also air one live EPL match every Saturday (game of the week), a decision aimed at clipping DSTV’s market in Rwanda. Econet Media has signed a deal valid for the 2016-17 and 2018-19 EPL seasons and acquired broadcasting rights in sub-Saharan Africa.
Launching its latest innovation, ‘free-to-air’ (FTA) channel last week at Kigali Marriot Hotel, CEO Kwese Free Sports Ben Amadasun said, “We are thrilled to have reached this important milestone. Our goal is to bring African viewers the very best viewing experience and we are able to provide this for free in a way that is accessible for our viewers,”
In addition to the English Premier League, Econet Media also acquired broadcasting rights across the continent for sporting codes that include, National Basketball Association (NBA), Extreme Fighting Championship, Formula One, The Spanish Copa Del Rey, English Rugby and Brazilian soccer.
The Kwese Free Sports can be accessed on any FTA set-top box (a decoder) or digital TV with a built-in set-top box. On this channel, Econet Media will be able to deliver the sports content that it has spent the past several months acquiring rights to.
A focus on the Rwandan market alone might be a damper for potential fans and ready-to-ditch-DStv viewers in other markets but it’s probably just Econet Media’s way of going live and fulfilling its contractual obligations in a market that is easier to launch a new TV service in.
As one of the African countries that covered the digital migration process early Rwanda also has expanded its set-top box market.
SuperSport is Africa’s largest sports entertainment brand and though it maintains the rights for extensive coverage of the Barclays Premier League, an option to watch just one Premier League game even on mobile devices (which are the gateway to African internet) dusts up Kwese Sports and makes it far more appealing than it was with just LaLiga’s Copa Del Rey.
What is a bit surprising though is the move to Direct to TV (DTT) model. The dream of Kwesé TV will be sold to content distributors as well as potential fans through the strengths of mobile TV.
Kwesé is supposed to come in with an extensive entertainment option that anyone on an appropriate internet ready phone can access, opening it up to a wider market than the one that has been shaped by viewers using decoders.
Perhaps this is a reflection of other challenges that could be inherent with Internet TV in Africa. While we wait for insight from Econet Media it will be worth watching how Kwesé TV is introduced to other markets.