Government has cancelled a deal in which State-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) had partnered Econet Wireless Group to broadcast English Premier League games live on ZTV, the Financial Gazette can report
Through Kwese Free Sports, Econet Media’s free-to-air channel, Econet was also supposed to have facilitated the broadcast of the recent Rio Olympic Games held in Brazil.
Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services permanent secretary, George Charamba, confirmed the development this week.
“There was an attempt to smuggle Kwese TV programmes onto our screens and we said get it out of our screens,” said Charamba.
“I have differences with ZBC management’s view to introduce a competitor. We stopped it as the ministry. I don’t sit here to mould a competitor riding on our national broadcaster’s platform. We don’t work like that. We can’t abuse a national institution by carrying a competitor. Hazviite izvozvo (That won’t ever happen). Kwese should use their TV.
“If they want to operate in this country, they should comply with the Broadcasting Services Act and acquire their own licence. How can ZBC carry a competitor? They wanted to launch their product at no cost riding on ZBC. Why would ZBC want to introduce competition?” he asked.
“In fact, it has since emerged that there is a ZBC board member who is also part of Kwese TV. We will fight that member. I ask that board member to resign now before we fire him. Hazviitwe izvozvo (That won’t ever happen). We are going to fire that person masikati machena (in broad daylight). We are going to humiliate him. ZBC can’t be run by competitors. I am here to protect the national broadcaster,” fumed Charamba.
Contacted for comment, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe spokesperson, Lovemore Nyatsine, referred all questions regarding the issue to ZBC.
“Kwese TV is unable to help in this matter and requests that you contact the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation for comment on the issues you have raised,” he said.
When approached for clarification, ZBC acting chief executive officer, Patrick Mavhura, said Kwese had approached the national broadcaster to negotiate a deal, which had not materialised yet.
“We don’t have a deal with them. We were talking, but nothing was finalised although they did broadcast some few games using our platform,” said Mavhura.
In a text message, ZBC board chairman, Father Gibson Munyoro wrote: “There was no deal entered yet with Kwese TV. ZBC is exploring possible business partnerships with a number of companies, but no deal has been sealed yet. Thanks and God bless.”
However, ZBC and Econet Wireless last month appeared to have struck a deal that saw ZBC acquiring a sub-licence from Econet Media, which has exclusive premium sports rights.
This deal could have seen ZBC telecast on its channel, up to six hours of content from the Olympics, which ended last month, as well as some delayed coverage to the Zimbabwean viewers for free.
In addition, one live English Premier League match would have been aired every Saturday on ZBC TV for free. On August 13, 2016, Econet Wireless and ZBC issued a joint press statement confirming the deal, which now appears dead in the water.
In that statement, Mavhura was quoted saying: “Certainly this represents a significant achievement for us at ZBC. Thanks to Kwese, we are the only broadcaster with the rights to screen the Rio Olympics live across the country, for free.”
Mavhura further added: “This is the first and certainly not the last of many synergies between ZBC and Kwese, which will strive to live up to the vision of bringing the best in international and local premium sports content to viewers in Zimbabwe. ZBC and Kwese are pleased to have partnered.”
Econet Wireless said: “We are pleased to announce that Kwese has secured exclusive free-to-air rights to the Rio Olympics 2016 Live on ZBC TV as well as Live English Premier League every Saturday.”
Econet Media, which provides multimedia content across the African continent, early this year acquired the broadcasting rights for English Premier League matches which would be shown live on Kwese Sports platform, on a free-to-air basis each weekend of the season until 2019 across the African continent.
In addition to the English Premier League, Econet Media also acquired broadcasting rights across the continent for sporting codes that include the National Basketball Association, Extreme Fighting Championship and most recently the National Football League among others.