Kwesé iflix, the multiplatform African entertainment network, announced a slate of original programming Thursday, marking its first foray into original content in a region with a large youth population and fast-growing Internet and smartphone penetration.
Each of the three new original series comes from a different African country – Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria – in a reflection of the continent’s diversity but also the challenge of developing content that can cross borders. Kwesé iflix’s CEO Mayur Patel said that the new slate “underlines Kwesé iflix’s ambition to lead an entertainment revolution” in Africa and that it “pushes the limits” for local content.
“We are thrilled to work with local top-tier industry players to offer our users some of the region’s top entertainment franchises,” he said. “We want to grow and establish Kwesé iflix as the new home for the region’s most talented producers and actors.”
Kwesé, a subsidiary of Econet Media, earlier this year announced a joint venture with iflix Africa, the regional offshoot of the Asia-based streaming service.
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First out of the gate of the three new shows is Kenyan crime drama “Nganya,” a gritty series set in Nairobi’s criminal underworld. Produced by Kenya’s Assignments Studios, the 13-episode first season was released Thursday on the Kwesé iflix mobile app.
The lineup also includes Tanzanian telenovela “Nyavu,” which will be released in December, and an untitled docuseries, produced in Nigeria, slated for an early 2019 release.
Earlier this month, Econet announced a shift away from its pay-TV offerings, which are available in 11 African markets, to focus on three core services: free-to-air network Kwesé Free Sports, streaming service Kwesé Play, and VOD service Kwesé iflix. The release of “Nganya” on the Kwesé iflix app reflects an aggressive mobile strategy that looks to capitalize on Africa’s young population and the proliferation of smartphones. “We are gearing ourselves up to a be a mobile-centric product,” Econet Media CEO Joseph Hundah told Variety earlier this year.
The move into original content is an important part of that strategy. While Kwesé has inked deals with the likes of Viceland and ESPN for premium foreign programming, emerging players across the continent believe the key to capturing – and keeping – local audiences is through high-end, homegrown content.
Recently, Econet announced the launch of its own content creation hub, Kwesé Studios, which will produce original programming for its pan-African multiplatform network. Last year, South African streamer Showmax released its first original series, the eight-part mockumentary “Tali’s Wedding Diary.” This year, it announced its first scripted drama, “The Girl from St. Agnes,” a murder mystery that was repped by Red Arrow at Mipcom.
Kwesé iflix said that other original projects are in development.