Starting next year, Africans will be able to watch more American sports than ever before.
Kwesé TV, a sports website owned by Econet Media, has partnered with American cable TV channel ESPN in a deal which will see Kwesé exclusively air hours of licensed content from ESPN including its iconic SportsCenter show across 19 countries in Africa. Kwesé and ESPN will also collaborate to launch an African edition of the popular ESPN mobile app and website.
The partnership is the latest in Kwesé’s ambitions to become a leading sports content provider in Africa. Already holding rights to America’s biggest sports leagues including the NFL, NHL and the NBA, the partnership with ESPN now allows Kwesé air NCAA college basketball and American football content.
While American football and baseball are not as popular, basketball enjoys a notable following across the continent partly thanks to a growing crop of African stars in the NBA. But just as pivotal has been the NBA’s play to grow its African fan-base. In August 2015, South Africa hosted the first ever NBA Africa game involving big names like past stars Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo and current NBA stars LA Lakers’ Luol Deng. The NBA held camps focusing on young kids on the continent.
Earlier this year, Kwesé, which is owned by Zimbabwean telecoms tycoon Strive Masiyiwa, struck a broadcasting rights agreement with the English Premier League, one of the most watched sports league in Africa. Per the agreement, Kwese airs one live Premier League game every Saturday for subscription-free views across 50 African countries. The agreement also covers other Premier League-related programming including preview and highlights shows.
For ESPN, the partnership with Kwese marks a return to Africa after a brief hiatus. In 2013, the Disney-owned channel pulled its content from South African pay-TV DSTV as part of a decision to end operations in non-American markets that were considered to be no longer financially viable.