Long Haul: Kwese TV Defies Competition, Projects into Africa’s Growing 900 Million Smartphone Users
Toward the end of last week, Kwese TV, a new satellite DTH PAY TV entered into the market that have recorded high mortality rate. Boasting of some premium contents for its customers, the new pay TV strikes a unique differentiation in its offer of flexible subscription options ranging from 3, 7 and 30 days. The President Group CEO, Econet Media , Joseph Hundah, in this exclusive interview, talks Kwese’s unique offerings, market expansion, positioning and how best to manage the highly volatile and competitive market. Excerpts
What is your view on Pay TV in Africa?
Pay TV in Africa with the rest if the world actually will open new opportunities. For example if you look at the number of so call TV household, the competition are under 30% which is much lower to the rest of the world. Therefore, there are enormous opportunities to grow Pay TV for operators. What is also important in this industry now, is that the way consumers are watching television are changing. More people are watching content on mobile phone, laptops on ipad etc. As Kwese TV, we have been able to build business that is suitable for watching contents even on mobile phone. So our tactics is not just to have presence in traditional media platform but also to look at new digital platform as well for our contents.
In concrete terms, what vacuum has Kwese TV comes to fill in the Nigerian market?
We saw a gap in the market, we see growth opportunities, the Pay TV is still growing but more than that we pride ourselves in innovation, doing things that have never been done before in the continent . For example, we have introduced flexible billings on our platform, ability to pay for 3, 7 or 30 days as the consumer desires. It’s completely innovative. It’s only been tried by one platform in India, no other platform has tried it in the world so why not try it in Africa, it makes sense. After all, we sell rice in cups, we sell water in small in packs. This is the way economy in Africa’s been done over a period of time, so why not do the same in entertainment? Let’s gives entertainment more virtues.
But over that we really try to build a strong business around mobile. You know there are more than 3 hundred million Smartphones in Africa, it’s higher than the US. The numbers are expected to triple over the next five years, by 2022, it should be over 9 hundred millions Smartphones. Smartphones are getting more cheaper, getting better quality and most population in African are still very young. The average population in Nigeria is under 20 so you can imagine these young kids are not watching contents in their television anymore, they are watching contents on their phones and on social media and the likes. That is why we have elected to build a business that is geared towards exploring the vast opportunities.
Having lunched in Nigeria today, how many countries are you in Africa currently and what is your exclusive view?
On the Pay TV side, we have launched in 14 countries. We started in the beginning of August. We actually launched yesterday in Uganda and we are planning to lunch in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Namibia, South Sudan, Swaziland these are countries that are left for us. On the free to air platform, we are in 25 countries, in English and French speaking countries. For the first time consumers are getting premium sport for free. We want to build sport not only soccer but sport in general because we are such a young continents, these kids need to keep themselves occupied, Kwese TV wants to make them to be involved in sport and stay healthy.
Out of the lot, how important is the Nigerian market?
It’s a critical market for us . Not just because of the population side but the economy is strong and obviously it probably takes 2 or 3 Eastern African countries to made up the population of Nigeria. It’s really important market for us
Nigeria consumers are special. You got a very thriving business here. Remember your movie industry is the second in the world. So, for us it is important as it gives the opportunity to harness the available local content as much as possible and deploy on our platform. We are going to build this specifically for this market. Nigeria alone you can create sufficient contents to satisfy the Nigerian market.
Another nice thing about Nigeria is that even if you create content for Nigeria, it travel very well. This is because Nigerian movies and contents are very popular elsewhere in Africa, even in South Africa, Kenya, they are very popular. It’s quite a nice market in creating contents with great appeal.
What Is Kwese doing in terms of developing entrepreneurship in Nigeria?
We already have 600 dealers and retailer around Nigeria. Most of these people are young and most of our installers are young people. All they need do is they get our installation app, they are able to do installation, they keep themselves busy, you know it takes 1 or 2 hours to do one installation. We are therefore, trying to build that network of efficient people. This is just the beginning, everything will still grow, we encourage more young installers to come onboard and also encouraging people that are in the production industry in terms of creating contents for all our platforms not just in Nigeria but across Africa to look in for the huge business prospect that Kwese TV offers.
The more installers we have in the market, the easier for our customer s to get access to the products . So it is important for us to get them on-board in every nooks and crannies of the country.
What band is Kwese TV running on KU or C band, and what is you plan against the commonplace rain fade issue?
Kwese is running on KU band and C band in different part of the continent. We have really taken precautions to reduce rain fade but it is impossible to get over rain fade but we tried to taking steps minimize it with strong satellite signals and right equipments to receive those signals.
How do you intend manage competition knowing fully-well that the market leader does not take chances?
Competition is good for industry. Will the consumers benefit from competition? Yes, prices are bound to come down. More varieties and options are encouraged by competition. What is important for us is to focus on our own business. What is our own strategic plan and how do we intend to roll out the business across Africa? These are our priorities. Manage your own business, you are sure of your own strategy, you don’t need to worry about competition, competition takes care of itself.
We are very happy with the contents we put up; we worked very hard to put out premium contents in our platform. Most of the contents on our platform are new to Africa completely. It’s about creating differentiation, customer service and about delivery to your customers.
Now projection, 5 years from now what do we expect from Kwese TV?
Our ambition is to be number one media business in Africa across board and we are on our way to do achieve this goal. We already have the biggest free to air TV station within 2 and a half years, so it’s just a question of giving us time and we will be number one.
You talked about local content production, when will Kwese TV go into original production?
We already have some original production. You heard ChiChi talked about creating local contents around some of our sport right. Sound Sultan will be doing our basketball show in the morning, so there are more of that going on.
Currently what are the contents that standout your platform?
Some of the channels that we have in our Platform are new in to the market like Tsunamis, Dream world, Cartons Superheroes and so many news channels that have not been in Africa before. So we have quite an array of contents that are exclusive on our platform.
What kind of leverage has Kwese Sport given Kwese TV?
Sport is really important on our platform and so far the first biggest investment we made was in sports. This is to position us to getting the big sporting rights when available. One thing about sport is, once big tournaments are well known with you, it gives your platform a good brand recognition and good expansion of your brands ultimately making your offerings well rounded. It allows every interest to be taken care of -talking about kids, women in the house and others not just about sport.
Talking about Premiership, probably the most prized content in Pay TV in this clime, what effort are you putting in place so that when opportunity comes your company will easily attract it?
We have a relationship with the owners of the property already, we bought their free to air right which we we are currently showcasing. When the right becomes open for bidding, they will give everybody equal opportunity to bid. What is important is who qualifies and able to pay. It’s a complete transparent process. What we need is a fair chance to be able to put in our bid as well.