Yesterday, people started receiving an error message on their Kwese Play streaming boxes which read:
Econet no longer offers Kwese Play. For more information contact Econet.
Econet calmed the storm and said they were in discussion with Roku and would inform customers of the resolution of these discussions
Pan-African broadcaster, Econet Media, has noted that today customers received a notification on their devices that they have been deactivated.
Kwesé Play service was launched in partnership with Roku, a US-based OTT streaming platform. We have been in discussions with Roku regarding the viability of the Kwesé Play service.
The closure of the service and the message relayed on the device this morning was unexpected and comes at a time when we are engaged in discussions with Roku about their future plans on Africa.
We apologise for the inconvenience and are working on resolving this. Detailed communication will be provided to all customers in due course.
It seems their partner in this issue, Roku has a different stance, as they have claimed that their licensed partnership with Econet came to an end and they did not seem to mention anything about on-going discussions. In fact, Roku’s statement claims that Econet is shutting down Kwese Play:
Econet licensed our platform to deliver the Kwesé Play streaming service to its customers. Econet is shutting down the Kwesé Play service and is no longer working with Roku. For more information contact Kwesé/Econet.
Now considering that Econet was licensing the platform, one suspects that there was a failure to keep up with licensing payments (which is not entirely new to Kwese).
Another issue you seriously have to question is whether or ZOL (who were among the distributors of the streaming box) took advantage of their customers as they continued to give out Kwese Play boxes to customers at discounted prices and as value addition when they increased pricing of their uncapped packages. We asked ZOL representatives whether they knew of any disputes between Kwese and Roku and they are yet to respond at the time of going to press.
Kwese Play would be the second Kwese offering to bite the dust if Roku’s statement is entirely accurate and there are no ongoing negotiations in the background. Last year, Kwese TV (the satellite offering) was also abandoned after failing to convince consumers to part with their money for what most viewed as a lacklustre content roster.
We’ve also reached out to Econet’s Media Relations Exec Fungai Mandiveyi to get an understanding of whether discussions to restore Kwese Play service are still ongoing or if Roku’s position is accurate and final. This article will be updated once he has responded.