EXCLUSIVE: Kwesé to close its pay-television channels in Africa

African broadcaster Kwesé TV will begin shutting down its pay-television sports and entertainment channels after a torrid 18 months littered with missed payments and cancelled deals.

Kwesé will either cancel or renegotiate its deals for pay-television rights to various sports properties, many of which also include free-to-air and digital rights.

An internal communication from Kwesé chief executive Joseph Hundah, obtained by SportBusiness Media, said: “We will streamline our direct-to-home, satellite television service. This means we will reduce our third-party channels as well as remove our own Kwesé-branded sports and general entertainment channels except Kwesé Free Sports.”

The communication does not directly state that employees will be laid off. Instead, it says: “We are in the process of reviewing our operational structures across our markets, which may result in changes across various business units.”

It continued: “Please feel free to engage the executive team member within your division for clarity.”

Since April 2017, Kwesé has either missed or been late on payments to: Fifa, Uefa, the English Premier League, Formula One, the NBA, ESPN and the beIN Media Group. The company has almost solely relied on funding rounds to pay rights-holders this year.

Kwesé will now focus on its Kwesé Free Sports business – which distributes blocks of branded free-to-air sports programming to broadcasters across sub-Saharan Africa – and its Kwesé iFlix and Kwesé Play digital services from 2019 onward.

Kwesé was the third African pay-television operator in the last 10 years to take on media group Multichoice, which owns the region’s dominant pay-television operator (DStv) and sports broadcaster (SuperSport). Kwesé is also the third African operator to accrue large debts, miss payments and close its channels prematurely.