Kwese TV takes control of iflix and will use it to drive its mobile roll-outs

23 February 2018

Top Story

This week Econet Media’s Kwese TV bought out iflix’s failing African operation. Russell Southwood looks at how things might have gone wrong for iflix that seems to walk on water in Asia.

It all started so promisingly as iflix bought together its Africa team. The CEO was for CEO of Price Check, Andre de Wet. The Head of Content Evert van der Veer was recruited from Comedy Central where he had headed up its African operation. The Head of Marketing was Jo Eyre who was Senior Marketing and Communications Officer – Sub-Saharan Africa for mobile browser Opera.

It started its roll-out in Anglophone African countries, saying it would steer clear of the more expensive content market of South Africa. Its starting point was do deals with telcos (much as it had done in Asia) across its different territories to bundle content and data in a single price: it would offer either cheap or reduced cost data. (See article in Digital Content Africa)

But before launch, not many of these deals were in place and African mobile operators were not so enthusiastic as their Asian counterparts about the structure of the deal. At the time CEO de Wet said: “It’s not a revenue share but I can’t get into the details”. He was bullish about subscriber numbers:”There will be a few million subscribers. It took iflix two years to get to 5 million in Asia. It might be sooner in Africa. There will be a couple of million over a year to eighteen months”.

Having set up operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa, iflix offers what the acquisition press release describes as:”the region’s most extensive collection of highly acclaimed local African and international series and movies, including first-to-market exclusive programming”.

iflix Group Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mark Britt said: “Following the initial phase of building our business in Africa, we have seen tremendous growth across our operating markets, far exceeding our expectations”. However, as with all international platform operators of this kind, there were no user numbers to back up this claim.

Variety reported that Mayur Patel, currently Senior Vice President of Kwese Mobile Experience, will be named CEO of the joint venture between Kwese and iflix. However, as with all these things described asjoint ventures, it’s always most revealing to see which alpha dog has eaten its partner.

“Most of the management team was dissolved”, one former iflix Africa exec said. “Things weren’t defined. They didn’t know exactly what they wanted. There was a lot of inconsistencies about what we hoped to achieve.”

In terms of the consumer, Joe Hundah, CEO Econet Media explained:” Variety the companies would “combine our operations and ultimately offer one app containing both iflix [and Kwese] content.” Those with long memories will recall that Econet Media had its own platform ipidi TV that it rolled out in 2016 before closing it down and partnering with iflix. Better luck second time round.

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