Football: World Cup fever: Slow change in African sport TV market

- in World News


Last week, StarTimes unveiled its 2018 FIFA World Cup promotion, a coming-of-age story flashing back to a boy’s first World Cup in 1994. It runs through the next several tournaments highlighting the rise and fall of the Super Eagles on the global stage before concluding with a grand promise of the coverage of Russia 2018 on StarTimes at a token price.

Market leader SuperSport launched its World Cup promotional campaign as far back as December 2017 with its ‘Connect with Greatness’ television commercial. It features a series of interviews with legends of the game – Pele, Austin Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Michael Owen, etc – who recall the nostalgia of tournaments past and share their insights. Kwese TV has yet to launch their World Cup campaign.

One year after my bold declaration in my very first article for The Guardian that SuperSport was set for a shake-up of their dominance in the African sport television market, it seems not much has changed with less than two months to the start of the World Cup. While StarTimes and Kwese TV, who both won the rights to the World Cup, have brought more options into the market place, the market has not essentially changed. FIFA handed all three broadcasters rights to its most prized asset last year in what was one of the most lucrative bidding rounds for the governing body in Africa.All three broadcasters, including South Africa’s national broadcaster SABC, paid almost $58million in rights agreements to FIFA. How they will recoup that investment is playing out slowly. While SuperSport is catering for a premium subscription market, it has also made its rights available on the more mass market GOtv platform. StarTimes is trying to compete by keeping their subscription cost at 1,300 Naira for all the 64 matches live and in HD.

It would be tough for Kwese who have a standard 30-day subscription of 6,275 Naira to crack that low-price market. Perhaps it is this dilemma that has kept Kwese from unveiling its promo. The window of opportunity for price differentiation is very tight.

While Kwese has the advantage of the free-to-air (FTA) rights of the World Cup across sub-Saharan Africa and was expected to enter into agreements with national broadcasters to deliver eyeballs to potential advertisers, the deal with the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria has not been completed. One assumes that Kwese would rather keep the rights to itself and hope it sells decoders and subscription to fans. But in a market with rock bottom prices like what StarTimes and a variety of options like what SuperSport offers, it becomes difficult to see that happening.

It is still about seven weeks to the start of the World Cup but I don’t expect miracles to happen. The shape of the sport TV market has already been moulded. The product differentiation would be left for the kind of content that all three broadcasters would offer during the tournament. The broadcaster with the most creative content will win hearts and certainly win more market share.

However, it is also an opportunity to begin to look at the opportunities for creating great content in domestic markets across the continent. The high cost of acquiring global content like the World Cup and other European and American sports is not healthy for the development of the local sports scene. A fraction of the money spent on gaining the rights to major events could transform domestic sports across the continent.

The Nigeria Professional Football League is struggling to put games on TV since its deal with SuperSport hit a glitch in 2017. The league has been working with the NTA since with production quality not up to the levels we were used to.

Investing some of the money for acquiring expensive European rights to the local scene will work magic for domestic sports across board. Nigeria could really do with a world-class production company cum broadcaster and distributor that would pick up the abundance of content lying fallow and turn them into gold. When the frenzy of the World Cup is over, it would be time to start looking at the sports events that dot our landscape.

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