First local TV streaming service lunched in Zimbabwe

Tatenda Chitagu

MASVINGO, ZIMBABWETired of the biased and stereotypical depiction of Africans in foreign-directed films on various online television streaming services? You are homesick in the diaspora and want to catch up with home entertainment online? Or you are fed up with the dorminant online television streaming services and want to know more about the Zimbabwean culture?

Worry not, there is now an alternative for you.

Sydney Taivava, The initiator

An award-winning Zimbabwean filmmaker has launched the first ever local TV streaming service that offers a wide range of local content, challenging established streaming service providers.

Named TV Yako (translated to Your TV), the service targets Zimbabweans who want to see their culture and history represented on screen, as well as global audiences who are interested in learning more about Zimbabwe. It also offers engaging content that showcases the richness and diversity of Zimbabwean stories.

TV Yako is the first and only streaming service to offer uniquely Zimbabwean content.

It was launched in November 2023 and is now operational, marking a grand entrance on the global entertainment scene.

The brains behind the streaming service:

The founder is Sydney Taivavashe, a 32 year-old Zimbabwean from the small city of Masvingo, located 300 kilometers from the capital, Harare. Taivavashe is a Zimbabwean film director, producer and screenwriter who made his debut film in 2006, in a short film titled The Terrific Nights. He has won several awards for his films, such as Seiko, Gonarezhou: The Movie, and Poor Cousins. He is also known for directing The Story of Nehanda, a biopic film about the Zimbabwean spirit medium Mbuya Nehanda that motivated the 1970s war of liberation against white setttler colonialists that ushered in independence in 1980.

Viewers glued Yako TY

“I came up with the idea in May of 2015 but we finally launched on the 20th of November 2023. What motivated me to start TV Yako is the need to bring a home-based solution to the lack of fair representation and variety of Zimbabwean content in mainstream international media. We want to bring Zimbabwean stories to life,”  Taivavashe said in an interview.

“TV Yako will be the platform that gives Zimbabweans their own stories. We cater for Zimbabweans who want to watch their stories on screen, whether they live in Zimbabwe or abroad. This is their platform that links them to their homeland.

“Netflix and other streaming services dominate the industry with their international productions, and we cannot compete with them on that level. However, I think TV Yako has a potential to challenge them in the Zimbabwean market, as they mainly focus on content from South Africa and Nigeria. Our streaming service is offering something that other platforms are not and that is uniquely Zimbabwean content,” he said.

TV Yako offers a diverse selection of shows, movies, and TV series. Notable titles include the movie ‘Poor Cousins’ and the series ‘Rock Bottom’ featuring Zolile Makeleni. Exciting upcoming shows include ‘City Queens’ and ‘The Real Life of Madam Boss.’

Not an easy stroll in the park:

Taivavashe says coming up with such innovation had its fair share of challenges.

“Developing the technology posed significant challenges and incurred substantial costs. Despite the financial investment in paying developers, the platform did not initially operate smoothly. At present, our content library is limited, and we recognize the importance of investment partners to expand our offerings for subscribers. Content creation involves significant costs, and we seek additional collaborators to enhance our creative endeavors,” he said.

Taivavashe however said it is not all gloom and doom.

“Recognizing an opportunity of collaborating with other partners, we forged a partnership with Uscreen, an American company specializing in technology solutions. They now manage the technical aspects, allowing us to concentrate on creating compelling content. This model aligns with the successful approach adopted by Showmax, reinforcing our confidence in the chosen path.    

“We’re currently developing mobile applications. People can access the platform via web for now. For a fee of $2.99, subscribers can access the complete collection of Zimbabwean entertainment,” he added.

Zimbabwe Online Content Creators (ZOCC) chairperson Toneo Rutsito said financial constraints shut out most digital creatives from pursuing their dreams.

“The biggest challenge is capacitation and financial constraints by online content creators to pursue their various crafts. More synergies with both public and private sector are needed where all players come out to support and compliment digital creatives’ efforts,” said Rutsito.

National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) provincial Arts Manager Helen Mudefi aknowledged the funding gap, but urged digital creatives to apply for funding from the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust, which is a pool from non-governmental organisations funding artists in the country.

“We encourage creatives to apply for funding from the Culture Fund and even through other arts and culture related funders like UNESCO and the United States Embassy in Zimbabwe,” said Mudefi.

Massive subscription drive:

Taivavashe says his platform has been warmly embraced by users, with the highest number of subscribers hailing from Zimbabwe, followed by the UK, South Africa, Poland, and Australia.

“This trend underscores the strong appetite for Zimbabwean content. Currently, we have 300 active users per month, and our goal for 2024 is to achieve a minimum of 10,000 active subscribers,” he said.

One subscriber, Stephen Bhera, based in the diaspora, says he tunes in to the channel to end his homesickness and touch base with whats happening back home.

“I have been away in Zimbabwe for several years and have lost touch. I sometimes become nostalgic and this channel is the right one. It also helps my kids to keep in touch with my roots, my culture and identity as African and Zimbabwean because of the programmes,” said Bhera.

Africa Change Stories platform is established to tell African stories which are empowering and are at variant to stereotypical views of wars, famine, diseases. At African Change Stories, we believe narrative and angle matters. So we responsibly tell stories ethically. The platform therefore pushes forward great and energizing stories which will propel its people to consciously strive to do more. You have a story? Info@africanchangestories.org

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