Earlier this month Econet Media announced Kwesé Play, a Roku powered streaming box. It has launched in South Africa. They also announced a partnership with Netflix. In the partnership, Kwesé becomes Netflix’s official African partner and the Kwesé Play streaming box becomes the first set-top box to officially include the Netflix service. By Africa they mean Sub-Saharan Africa.
From the surface it is not clear why this partnership exists in the first place. Netflix was already available in the Sub-Saharan African market as it is in almost all of the world. The world, bar a few markets have had Netflix for what is approaching two years now. Some of us have had accounts the whole time.
What does the Kwesé-Netflix partnership mean then? Seeing as we do not need Kwesé Play to enjoy Netflix, it doesn’t look like we need to concern ourselves with it. However, could this mean Netflix is only going to be available in Sub-Saharan Africa via Kwesé Play in the future?
That move would benefit Kwesé more than it would Netflix. It would not make sense for Netflix to introduce a barrier for those who would subscribe for the service. The Roku-powered Kwesé Play set top box is expensive and is not even the best Roku device. Currently users only need either a laptop, smartphone, tablet, smart TV or other such devices to access Netflix, devices they already have.
Who would want to shell out $123 for Kwesé Play when they already have a device that they can access Netflix on? I know there are other services available on Kwesé Play, the big one being Kwesé TV. Even then, you can get Kwesé TV on satellite and subscribe for Netflix like you always have and it would still be cheaper than this new product.
The other services available on Kwesé Play are not that compelling and the free stuff is free for everyone, even those not on the Kwesé Play bandwagon.
What Kwesé Play is offering though is the chance to pay for your Netflix in your country’s local currency. This means bond notes for us here in Zimbabwe. You would no longer need a Visa or Mastercard to make your payments. No ‘externalisation’ charges will come your way.
As Strive Masiyiwa alluded to in one of his Facebook posts, this new product and the partnerships signal a shift in strategy. What is strange is that he touts this Kwesé Play as the future whilst they are in the process of expanding their satellite option. It very well might be the future but they seem to be conceding that that future is not yet here by continuing to push the satellite product.
Kwesé Play launched in South Africa first and Masiyiwa says it was strategic. At the beginning of the year the Econet group bought Neotel, now Liquid Telecom SA, which specialises in fibre optic networks for over R6bn (~$450m.) Since Kwesé Play relies on high speed fibre connections it is easy to see the connection. Kwesé Play however will not be exclusive to Liquid Telecom SA, other companies can get in on the action.
Video on demand is the future. Internet protocol TV is the future. Back here in Zimbabwe, Telone recently applied for a video on demand licence as telcos scramble to make sure they are not left out. Netflix disrupted the TV industry and even in the west it looks like VOD is the model of tomorrow, facilitated by IPTV technology of course. In his Facebook post, Masiyiwa lamented the inflexibility and rigidity of satellite technology, which he termed old technology.
Here in Zimbabwe most of us will not be too excited about Kwesé Play when it launches here. Internet access costs are still exorbitant. That however should not stop Econet Media from launching this product, which is future proof. Most who have been enjoying Netflix will continue to access Netflix the way they have been all this time. The ability to pay using bond notes however is what may eventually lead most of us to fork out $123 for the Kwesé Play box.
What do you think about all this? With the multitude of IPTV boxes available, some at least five times cheaper than the Kwesé Play box would you consider it for the convenience of paying using bond notes? In all this, if you consider that not all of us have credit cards, do you see an uptake of this product? What if the $123 is revised down? Let us know in the comments below.