Why the Kwesé Play streaming box is an expensive paperweight

After months of silence from Roku about why it refuses to support the Kwesé-branded version of the Roku 2 player sold in South Africa, the company has provided feedback.

It has refuted suggestions that South Africa was just a product dump for obsolete Roku 2 streaming devices, and answered questions about why the devices can’t continue to work like an unbranded Roku player following the liquidation of Kwesé Play.

On the morning of 3 July 2019, concerned Kwesé Play subscribers flooded social media with questions for their video streaming provider.

Their streaming services had just been suspended, without warning, and their Kwesé-branded Roku 2 devices displayed a worrisome message:

“Econet no longer offers Kwesé Play. For more information contact Econet.”

Econet was the parent company of Kwesé Play. It also owns Liquid Telecom.

Subscribers duly complied with the instructions on the screen, and Econet’s initial response to them was that it had taken note that customers received a notification that their Kwesé Play devices were deactivated.

“We apologise for this inconvenience and are working on resolving it,” Kwesé told subscribers at the time.

It later issued a statement admitting that it was in discussions with Roku over the viability of the Kwesé Play service.

“The closure of the service and the message relayed on the device this morning was unexpected and comes at a time when we are engaged in discussions with Roku about their future plans on Africa,” Econet claimed.

However, when Roku was asked for comment it provided a different perspective entirely:

“Econet licensed our platform to deliver the Kwesé Play streaming service to its customers. Econet is shutting down the Kwesé Play service and is no longer working with Roku. For more information contact Kwesé/Econet,” Roku said.

Obsolete media players

When Kwesé Play first launched in South Africa in September 2017, the Roku 2 was already two years old.

While Roku was still selling the device in 2017, it has since been discontinued and the company notified customers last year that it was ending support for the Roku 2 entirely from 15 November 2019.

This raises the question: was Kwesé Play just a product dump of obsolete Roku 2 players?

“No. Econet was a Roku Powered partner,” a spokesperson for Roku told MyBroadband.

“That is a programme where we license our streaming platform and streaming player designs to service providers who leverage our platform to deliver streaming services to their customers.”

According to Roku, Econet chose the Roku 2 streaming player for the Kwesé Play service as it considered it to be the best fit for its proposition and market.

“Econet manufactured these devices themselves under the Roku Powered license,” the company stated.

“Millions of consumers around the world have used the Roku 2 streaming player.”

“Bricked” Kwesé Play Roku 2 devices

When asked whether Roku could release a software patch to allow Kwesé Play’s Roku 2 device to function like an unbranded device, Roku said that it is not possible.

“The devices that are in market today are Kwesé Play devices, owned by Econet. Roku is not in a position to patch these devices.”

Roku said it is sincerely disappointed that Econet closed its Kwesé Play business.

“When we signed Econet as a Roku Powered partner we did not envision this outcome.”

“We worked hand-in-hand with Econet to ensure the timely delivery of a high-quality product and continued support after launch.”

Now read: Why ICASA gave Kwesé TV a free-to-air licence

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Why the Kwesé Play streaming box is an expensive paperweight