The Roku devices of Kwesé Play subscribers in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa stopped working on 3 July, displaying a message suggesting that the platform had been shut down.
“Econet no longer offers Kwesé Play. For more information contact Econet,” the message reads.
This resulted in subscribers assuming that Econet had shut down its Kwesé Play service, along with its partnership with Netflix, with no prior warning.
Kwesé Play is a Roku-powered video streaming service offered by Econet Media. This company is also part of the Econet group, which also owns Liquid Telecom.
In response to questions on social media, Kwesé Play said that it was “experiencing a challenge on the platform” and that its technical team was working to restore normal service.
Later that evening, Econet sent an e-mail notice to subscribers stating that Roku had unexpectedly terminated the service amidst negotiations.
The e-mail is reproduced below:
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.
However, Roku provided a different perspective of the matter when asked for comment. It said that Econet is no longer with Roku and is shutting down Kwesé Play.
Roku’s full statement was as follows:
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.
Kwesé was asked for further feedback on the closure of its video streaming platform, but the company did not provide comment before the time of publication.
Kwesé Play launched in September 2017, after Econet Media inked deals with Roku and Netflix to be official partners for the companies in Africa.
As part of the partnership, Roku supplied a customised player for Kwesé Play with a reduced number of channels available. This was to address concerns over the availability of apps that enable piracy, Econet said at the time.
According to a report, Econet Media has placed its satellite broadcasting business under administration.
Econet Media CEO Joseph Hundah told Business Day that Kwese would begin talks with creditors to rescue the business, stating that it was to small to sustain the financial burden of its satellite operations.
He added that the group’s inability to move money out of Zimbabwe also had an impact on the business. The kwese TV will reportedly continue to operate its free-to-air business in the rest of Africa as normal.