Image credit – Manchester United Facebook
The Econet Wireless Group has just scored one for its internet TV and Video On Demand (VOD) ambitions. Its subsidiary, Econet Media, has acquired the package of free-to-air broadcasting rights for the English Premier League in sub-Saharan Africa.
Under this arrangement, over the next three seasons (2016/17 up to 2018/19) Econet will be able to flight one Saturday afternoon Premier League match live on its Kwese Sports platform, on a free-to-air basis each weekend of the season. The rights also come with the weekly preview and review shows and are going to be available in 50 countries across the region.
According to an article published on the Kwesé Sports site, Kwese will assume the role of an agent for the rights, and it will handle their distribution to free-to-air channels across Sub-Saharan Africa.
The aspect of rights distribution appears to be the way Econet Media will secure a return on its undisclosed investment in the rights. It also could be one way English Premier League content ends up on ipidiTV, another Econet Wireless Group VOD service.
Since Econet is a well-funded entity with strengths like its own network infrastructure, this content deal has a notable impression on the future of Sub-Saharan content dynamics.
For starters, this sets up Kwesé Sports as a more credible competitor to MultiChoice’s SuperSport with more than just resources just a fibre network and satellites. It’s now buying sought after content.
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 Kwesé Sports and makes it far more appealing than it was with just La Liga’s Copa Del Rey.
One other strength that MultiChoice possesses is sports content. Through the Supersport brand, it has managed to craft the most comprehensive delivery platform for local, regional and international sports.
By its own indirect admission through product curation practices, sports content is a major driver for pay TV subscriptions. MutiChoice’s DStv packages are moulded around this approach, with the widest sports coverage reserved for the premium packages.
These were musings that touched not only on Kwese’s probability as an eventual competitor, but also a reference to one of the major reasons why other IP TV and Pay TV alternatives have struggled to take on the SuperSport and DStv franchise.
Sure, a single weekend game and weekly highlights for three seasons aren’t enough to cause turbulence for DStv, but this development does show that Econet Media and Kwese TV are serious about playing in the pay TV segment big leagues.
A 3-season, 50 country broadcast rights deal for one of the most significant sports leagues in the world doesn’t come cheaply, so this was a very bold move from a serious party.
When all is said Econet Media still has a lot of other content deals to strike for Kwese TV before the dreams of African pay TV domination takes shape. More importantly, Kwese TV still has to launch its service.