Media streaming service, Kwesé iflix, now has more than 5 million users in Zimbabwe and continues to grow rapidly, according to Econet Wireless Zimbabwe CEO Mr Douglas Mboweni, who says the platform had been a “runaway success” and was “the future” of the business.
Mr Mboweni said the decision to suspend the satellite Pay TV platform was driven in part by the lack of foreign currency required to pay the owners of third party channels.
“The third-party channels are very expensive and we have to pay for the content in US dollars. Entertainment is [rightly] not considered a priority by the Reserve Bank, so we could not pay for those channels,” Mr Mboweni said.
The Econet CEO said sourcing foreign exchange to keep the network up and running was key for the business, and was currently a daily struggle.
“It was painful to see the channels close but we simply had no choice. We decided to keep the free channels on air because we don’t pay for them that much. We have to accept the reality of the current foreign currency situation; I cannot go to the Governor (of the Reserve Bank) and ask for money to pay CNN when there are not medicines in the country,” Mr Mboweni explained. Adding that Kwesé iflix would now focus on producing local content.
“The content cost of Kwesé iflix is much lower and we can sustain it for now, but in future we are going to turn Zimbabwe into a major local production centre. Perhaps that is the silver lining in this situation.”
Mr Mboweni said customers prepared to pay US$12 per month could get Netflix, which is available on a special decoder for free to existing customers.
”Netflix content is superior to anything out there, but unfortunately we have to pay them in US dollars as well,” Mr Mboweni said.