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MultiChoice’s decision to drop EPL, Champions League rights poses challenge to fresh players

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Stakeholders in Nigerian broadcast industry have described the decision by satellite broadcast outfit, Multichoice, to reconsider its hold on the English Premier League (EPL) and the UEFA Champions League as a reflection of the state of the country’s economy. Multichoice, through its subsidiary, SuperSport, which owns broadcast rights for the EPL in Nigeria and most of the rest of Africa, yesterday said it was considering not renewing the rights for the EPL and the UEFA Champions League when they come up for renewal at the end of the 2020/21 football season.

The company hinged its decision on the rising cost of international sports rights and the continually falling value of the naira against other major currencies.It said: “It is becoming impossible to maintain many of these sports rights, especially the EPL, for Nigeria. The recent fall of the naira against the dollar has equally not helped matters.”

The company’s annual report, published at the end of last month, showed a gaping hole in its Nigerian operations, a situation the source attributed to the cost of EPL rights, as well as those for other competitions such as the UEFA Champions League to Nigeria, which is charged separate to the rest of Africa.

According to Multichoice, “Rights for the African continent used to be bought singly, but this changed in 2007 when a competitor, backed by the federal government, forced the EPL to excise Nigeria from the rest of Africa. Now, the cost of the rights for Nigeria has risen to almost the same with the rest of the continent put together, while the number of subscribers in Nigeria is only about one quarter of the rest of the continent.”

The company said its decision to reconsider the continued purchase of the EPL rights was not exactly new, adding that two years ago, it almost did not renew the rights because the company was having difficulties justifying the huge cost when placed side by side with what its subscribers were able to pay as subscription when compared with the rest of Africa.

It disclosed that it costs about $250 million to get the EPL rights, while it spends about 100 million euros for the UEFA Champions League.
“The results show that percentage increase in expenses exceed a percentage increase in revenues, an indication that while it is spending more on its operations, it is not making enough to keep up,” it added.

Reacting to the development, Managing Director of Hotsports/HS Media, an independent and sports marketing company and official media partner of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Taiye Ige, said it was a sad reality of the times ‘we are in.’ According to Ige, it is a problem caused by now rested HiTV, which came and made unsustainable bids for the contents in an effort to monopolise the market.

“Before HiTV came to the scene, Nigeria and Africa were seen as one,” Ige lamented. “But they came and said Nigeria should be separate. They accepted to pay the same amount Africa as a whole was paying. Today, they are no longer here, but the problem is still with us. Where is the market? Which Nigerian bank will support you with this kind of money?”

Ige accused the Nigerian Broadcast Corporation (NBC) of also being part of the problem, when he insisted, “They just sit down and make laws without thinking of the implication. They said that nobody should have exclusive rights to any content, but they did not look at the cost of getting contents.”

Ige, whose company has facilities to host all types of broadcast activities, said his organisation would welcome any company that wants to bid for the EPL and Champions League rights, adding, “If they don’t have the facilities, they can use our own. We have a world class facility with several studios for massive production.”

When contacted, Multichoice’s major competitor, StarTimes, said the development has opened the doors for other outfits to bid for the rights. It added, however, that they would study the situation to know the best way to approach it.

A StarTimes senior official, who pleaded anonymity, said “our operations are geared towards getting quality contents for our subscribers. We are currently looking at the possibilities and will come up with a decision at the right time.”

Former Sports Manager at Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Mr. Paul Ogazi, said the national broadcaster could take up the challenge with the backing of the Federal Government. Ogazi, who recalled that NTA was broadcasting EPL before the advent of pay television, said, “With government’s support and aggressive marketing, NTA can do it. If they get corporate sponsorship, they can pool resources with other outfits to take up the rights.

“When I produced the EPL, all the stations came together under BON. We had a marketing group headed by OSMI to source for commercials and share the percentages.

“NTA and its partners may decide on the type of production, whether it would be central production or studio by studio. When we did it, we had a central studio, where the other partners sent their analysts every match day.
“To get it right, there must be accountability and everybody must be on the same page.”


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