Just five months after its launch, TelOne’s Digital Entertainment on Demand (DEOD) has announced that it has gained more than 20 000 subscribers. DEOD has also partnered with Zollywood to stream local shows to its subscribers.
Although this is slower than what Kwese iFlix achieved, reaching 20 000 subscribers in five months is a milestone which should be celebrated. Kwese iFlix reported that it had reached 1 million subscribers in its first four months. For a nation whose internet penetration is around 60%, this is commendable. Although it is not clear whether Kwese iFlix and DEOD’s subscribers are fully active or just want to test the waters, that the two have attracted such attention is an achievement on its own.
DEOD’s partnership with Zollywood is also a step in the right direction. The deal will allow subscribers to rent movies on the Zollywood catalogue. Speaking about this partnership, TelOne Managing Director Chipo Mtasa said, “We are excited to be launching our first local content as a key milestone in marketing the DEOD platform useful in promoting local productions. We have opened up to more local content producers and aggregators and we are confident this will strengthen the local arts in a big way. Zollywood’s Chief Executive Officer Tony Mliswa was also upbeat about the new development, touting it as the beginning of better things to come. He said his organisation is happy to be associated with a big brand such as TelOne. Zollywood’s movie selection includes Sores of Emmanuel, The in-laws, Mwanasikana 1 and 2, Sabhuku Vharazipi, More Time, State of and many more.
Competition from established international players like Netflix is always going to be stiff. However, the availability of local content on DEOD will give TelOne a competitive edge in the local market. There is need to ensure that content remains fresh and entertaining. In addition, the fact that both TelOne and Econet offer internet services will likely make their offerings cheaper than Netflix. Unfortunately, the arts industry in Zimbabwe is still somehow subdued and this will remain a setback for offerings like DEOD and iFlix. A glaring lack of variety will kill momentum.
It remains to be seen whether this thrust will continue if TelOne gets a new investor. TelOne and NetOne are being prepared for partial privatisation as part of State Owned Enterprise reforms. Also, DEOD’s contribution to TelOne’s balance sheet will be interesting to explore.