iROKOtv CEO Says Econet’s Approach With Kwese Was Not Respectful To The Nature Of The Business

Farai Mudzingwa Avatar

Lately, we’ve been covering iROKOtv a lot, and the fact that we were not doing so over the past year is downright CRIMINAL!

Why? Well, iROKO is the only African video content platform that has been scaled widely and with Econet, TelOne and NetOne (at some point in the future) all trying their hand at video content, iROKO is an immensely important company that has done what all these local guys are trying to do and therefore certainly deserves more coverage.

Long-winded apology/explanation out of the way, iROKOtv CEO Jason Njoku recently published a blog post speaking of iROKO’s plans going forward, now that their baby ROK has been acquired by Canal+.

In that blog post, Njoku touched on Kwese’s debt situation and had the following to say:

Paid content in Africa is a crazy difficult market. Econet plowed >$300m into Kwese before collapsing with $130m in debt a few weeks ago. I don’t say that lightly. I’m still in awe of the ambition of the team. I always felt it was too ambitious and not fully respectful of the nature of the business. Not to mention Showmax has spent $250m+ alone on content and platform development since launch. This is a game for those who can embrace bleeding out in order to reach scale. It’s only by taking bold f*****g ninja moves to still be in the game. ROK saved us. The ROK acquisition now gives us jet fuel to be able to seize an opportunity which is still there. But the fact we are still alive with a paltry $41m invested? What’s fantastic is that even after 7.5 years, we are still here, making an impact and dominating such a nascent market.

Jason Njoku

This isn’t the first time Njoku has spoken about Econet’s failure to truly understand content business – back in 2016 Njoku said he felt Strive Masiyiwa didn’t understand what they were trying to do (though he later backs down from that position and says he hadn’t explained it well enough:

Last summer I sat with a Southern Africa telecoms billionaire. We had a great chat in his beautiful home. He was interested in strategic relations with Iroko. He was technical, had strategic data assets, had oodles of capital but just didn’t seem to grasp what little we were attempting to do. Over 2 hours, I couldn’t really connect my vision with him. What we had seemed too small. Had taken too long.

I don’t think it was that they both didn’t understand, I think I just couldn’t explain it well enough to them in the time required. They had original interest, otherwise I wouldn’t have been in the room, but felt better placed to do it themselves or pass. 

Jason Njoku in 2016

Hindsight is 2020 and now more than ever it does seem that Econet failed to grasp the warzone that is paid content and hopefully TelOne will not fall into the same trap.

For now, it seems TelOne is going a different path with DEOD as they have already started adding local content on their platform – more than 10 Zollywood shows/movies were added in April. Whilst the approach is different and TelOne would love if this worked, it’s not a guarantee that it will work. Simple, this is not…

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