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As Netflix partners Kwesé what does this mean for Netflix in Africa

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.

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15 thoughts on “As Netflix partners Kwesé what does this mean for Netflix in Africa

  1. “…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…”

    Leonard Sengere, my first question to you is, where do you access your Netflix from, is it from mobile or a adsl or fibre link?

    Second is what happens when you leave your directly internet connected TV or PC, do you still have Netflix?

    My third question is, what happens to people who live in areas where fibre or adsl doesnt cover but they can afford to pay Netflix?

    Now think about this: Econet owns vast fibre infrastructure, they own mobile network and they own Earthlink Satellite Stations.

    If you are Econet what do you do? You approach or Netflix approach you for partneship so that services which Netflix couldnt offer to the internet unconnected people can now be reached either via satellite, LTE of via fibre expansion.

    Do you get it now?

    My worry is that Econet might decide to zero rate Netflix on its network since they have the capacity to do that and questions of net-neutrality might start to pop up again.

    But our gvt already have a answer since TelOne is going to get its license soon(they might not even wait for one once they put their house in order – tiri panyanga ndiyani anotibvunza) and they also have somewhat infrastructure to compete with Econet.

    1. Macd Chip, to answer your questions,

      I access Netflix from mobile and fibre link and I obviously need an internet connection to access Netflix. Those with no access to fibre or adsl can utilise mobile if they get decent speeds in their neighbourhoods.

      I fear you might not have understood Kwese Play. It is a streaming box which means you need internet access to view content. It just so happens that Kwese TV content is available on it. This means if you’re watching Kwese TV content via Kwese Play you would need internet access. Same applies to Netflix. Even via Kwese Play, you still need internet access. There is no option to get Netflix via satellite just yet.

      The internet unconnected people you talk about still would not be able to view Netflix content.

      In short, Kwese Play = internet (Netflix, Kwese TV etc); Kwese satellite = different product.

      1. You are still missing the link between Earthlinks, Satellite and Kwese.

        Here is another question, do you need internet to watch DStv films, DStv catch or its streaming service in Zim?

        Have you ever thought how this VOD service from DStv gets delivered to the box in your house?

        Im trying my best to leave the technical bits which makes this happen and why its another simple day in the Kwese TV technical department. It is as simple as choosing which of the options available to them is quickest and simple to get the video transmission to the Kwese receiver

  2. From Netflix’s perspective, the Kwese box is another playback device – in addition to browsers, the Playstation, XBox, Google Cast, Fire tablet,…etc, so the benefit is clear. Netflix will never do device exclusives.

    What Kwese stands to gain is a little unclear to me – maybe having access to additional content and benefiting from Netflix’s branding halo due to the association? The default mindset would be to consider Kwese and Netflix as competitors. However, with the way these video content networks are fragmenting, some cooperation is a good thing. Disney will be pulling out a lot of its content from Netflix and launching its own $15/mo service

    1. There should be some revenue share of some sort. Brand recognition might be the motive Kwese Tv went into the deal to broaden its packages offerring. Kwese might then get its money from subscribers to its service. Its almost the same with facebook where Econet is leveraging the popularity of facebook and other social media companies to create data bundles which Econet can then sell and doesnt have to share the money with Facebook or Twitter. It all becomes botton profit.

    2. Netflix and Shomax haven’t gained much traction in Africa because of the high Internet costs. Now, with the Econet monopoly that is slowly forming, they can zero rate traffic to users of their Kwese Play box either via Econet or via ZOL. These customers will not exist for Neflix without a provider of zero rated traffic. Kwese stands to gain a revenue share from Netflix, in a proper setup they would even have local Netflix mirrors on their network, so that the content you are watching isn’t streaming all the way from US but rather from Zimbabwe, SA or whatever. Local Internet traffic is cheaper than internation traffic.

  3. DSTV has merged the satellite tv and showmax divisions, people still need linear programming from tv/satellite tv

    vod is still a add on to many people, not their main mode of consuming tv content

    but as internet speeds get higher and cheaper, it will change

    the advantage of local payments will be temporary in zim, for other countries where online payments via visa are easy it wont be an advantage

    if u have noticed, many news channels have online streaming of their news on youtube and facebook

    challenge with vod is that it relies too much on subscription revenue, which is not currently enough to maintain investments needed to produce/buy content

    also issue of packaging of tv channels vs allowing people to choose channels they want to watch vs sustainability vs pricing e.t.c

    Lots of permutations and interesting developments in tv sector, changing consumption patterns e.t.c

    but whats clear is vod is the future

  4. In my personal opinion, this move would be strategic for Strive as he also moves to control a large chunk of internet traffic in Africa. The biggest hindrance for services like Netflix Showmax etc has to be the cost of data here in African markets (not a fact, merely speculation but it certainly is true for me, i use ZOL firbronics and can never imagine signing up for a streaming service that i will use while i think my data is flying away). In markets therefore that Stive has control over internet traffic, they can eventually be able to bundle up the service with a dedicated internet connection add African Servers (for the content) to that mix they may be able to deliver the content at a much cheaper rate than using the service via an unrelated internet connection in the best video quality available. So much for net neutrality though :O

  5. I want to know if its possible for me top pay for Kwese and Netflix and be able to enjoy their service online via laptop or mobile while Im away from the Kwese play set top box

      1. Technically its very possible, but not sure what it would take the technical department to set it up. A lot of authentication and multicast servers will nee to inplace linked to LTE servers.

  6. I want to know if its possible for me to pay for Kwese and Netflix and be able to enjoy their service online via laptop or mobile while Im away from the Kwese play set top box

  7. You clearly not well versed with what you wrote about. Ask yourself why dstv wanyed ti sell shate to Mtn. Why would maje them come to such decision? Answer is they dont have direct control of data and it has affected showmax viewership. People access it via telkom. However a lot via laptops. Roku is a good device as it has wifi. So you can use a phone to connect, adsl or as a hotdpot.

  8. I think most questions we are asking about this partnership are hinged in “strategic” product offering. What if you could pay for KwesePlay and regular Internet bundled in a awesome way. I think they might want to sway people towards Econet data packages. Secrets can’t be told nje

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