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Pan-African telecoms company Econet Wireless Group, through its media subsidiary Econet Media, has just announced that it has partnered with Cubiware, a Poland-based provider of software for Digital TV devices and systems.
Cubiware might not be a household name but its parent company TiVo Corporation is a major player in the pay TV space that built a reputation particularly in the USA by introducing live TV recording through its set-top boxes.
TiVo is a giant in the distribution of digital video recorder hardware, specifically its TiVos which are PVR-like decoders that provide pay TV subscribers a host of options through interactive TV.
The partnership between Econet and Cubiware is expected to bring similar solutions to Econet’s Kwesé TV.
Cubiware is expected to work with leading set-top box vendors to deliver the latest version of its CubiTV software that is designed for hybrid satellite and IP deployment which Kwesé TV has been primed for.
This will give subscribers access to on-demand content through PushVOD functionality, or the ability to record live TV for viewing at a later time.
It will pretty much mean that Kwesé TV subscribers will have access to PVR functionalities like pausing TV and even lining up content such as series for catch-up viewing.
On one hand, Econet’s plans here seem pretty straightforward. Kwesé TV will be adopting features that MultiChoice has reserved for its premium subscriber base and it will be extending them to all its users across Africa.
In one sweep it plays catch up with the market leader and it also signs on a capable interactive TV technology partner.
On the other hand, this also appears, though not so clearly, to be another case of Econet Media doubling down on linear TV services.
It’s something that it had already started doing with the launch of Kwesé TV (or pieces of it) in markets like Kenya and also in Zimbabwe (this attempt failed, mostly because of “sovereignty” and ego issues).
Is Econet focusing on linear TV because mobile TV is not yet a bankable avenue in Africa?
Sure, this CubiTV is for both satellite and IP TV, but when Kwesé TV was first unveiled and even in following pitches that ushered in its numerous content deals its sex appeal was clearly in the “TV on every African’s phone” spin.
Now, Econet is furrowing deeper into linear TV, an area where it will not have the unmatched advantages that Kwesé TV needs to take an effective shot at leaders like MultiChoice.
Then again, that’s neither here or there. For now, all we need to know is that whoever is catching that NBA game or that Formula 1 race on Kwesé TV can also pause and rewind the action.
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