ESPN Channel to Launch in Africa as Part of Kwese Deal

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The network will be available in 19 countries, and Walt Disney's sports juggernaut will also produce daily 'SportsCenter' updates for Africa.

Walt Disney's ESPN on Tuesday unveiled a partnership with Kwese, the sports network arm of African telecom and pay TV operator Econet, that will bring content from the sports juggernaut to the region.

Financial details weren't disclosed, but the partners vowed to "deliver the most comprehensive sports coverage in Africa, offering a wide range of sports and thousands of hours of programming."

They added: "African audiences will benefit from industry-leading content from the world’s leading sports media company in ESPN, in conjunction with Kwese’s premium sports offering, while Kwese’s pan-African reach and its TV everywhere multi-platform distribution capability will deliver the content to viewers through TV and digital platforms making it accessible to sports fans wherever they are."

ESPN has been looking to boost its international profile via deals with strong regional or local partners. Among them are deals with Sony in India, Tencent in China and BT Sport in the U.K.

In Africa, ESPN previously had an ESPN and ESPN Classic channel, but they were closed in 2013.

The new deal takes effect in early 2017 with the launch of an ESPN channel in 19 countries, which will be exclusive to Kwese. ESPN will also produce daily SportsCenter updates for Africa, bringing the sports news and highlights brand to the channel.

In addition, by mid-2017, ESPN and Kwese will together launch an African edition of the ESPN website and mobile app. The new, and its accompanying app, will combine ESPN’s coverage of global sports with local African sports coverage from Kwese.

With the deal, Kwese adds NCAA American football and basketball to its existing TV rights for the NFL, NHL and the NBA, underlining its strategy of being the home of American sports in Africa.

"This long-term collaboration across television and digital media will...serve millions of sports fans across Africa with exceptional products, content and coverage," said Russell Wolff, executive vp and managing director, ESPN International. "We are very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead as we bring ESPN’s great content, including SportsCenter, and decades of experience in sports media together with one of Africa’s most dynamic and vibrant companies."

Said Joseph Hundah, CEO of Econet Media: "Ultimately our goals are the same, to bring fans the best in global sports. The synergies between Kwese and ESPN allow us to achieve that goal by leveraging our collective ability to deliver premium African and global sports programming to sports fans across Africa."