A new vista pointing to a growth trajectory for the Nigeria Premier Football League opened on Thursday, November 2, when StarTimes and the league penned a deal worth a total of N5.9bn over five years. It was for many, an end to years of broadcast anomie as the last six years saw all manner of deals put on the table, leading to the erosion of broadcast quality and eventual loss of value for the most important asset of any football league.
“Put the league on TV or when will the league return to television” was always a common retort by critics and some others who apparently didn’t understand the dynamics of broadcast rights marketing.
The point should be made that one of the biggest obstacles to selling the NPFL broadcast right is the huge production cost occasioned by infrastructure deficit at most, if not all our poorly designed and constructed stadiums. For those who may not have been privy to the fact, it was a major reason for the exit of SuperSport which also had issues with the forex.
In terms of value, the NPFL crashed to ground zero of broadcast rights, and the recent selling of the NPFL broadcast rights to StarTimes is a helluva leap for the renewed hope for our domestic league which began with the defunct Interim Management Committee that was the forerunner to the substantive NPFL board led by Gbenga Elegbeleye.
Interestingly, the cry of ‘put our league on television’ has become muted, and morphed into excoriating comments on the value of the deal in comparison with other African countries. For proper perspectives, the NPFL deal over five years goes in progression of N1.06bn, N1.10bn, N1.20bn, N1.25bn and N1.30bn; bringing a total of N5.91bn which at the official exchange rate is approximately $7.7m.
In January, the Ghana Premier League which has enjoyed a relatively stable broadcast rights market signed a similar five-year deal with the same StarTimes for $5.25m which is a flat $1,050,000 per year. Like Nigeria, Ghana also suffered from the withdrawal of South Africa-based SuperSport from broadcast relationships. In Tanzania, the Bakhresa Group based in Dar es Salaam bought the Tanzania Mainland Premier League broadcast rights through their Azam TV for £7.5m. Bakhresa is an indigenous-founded company just like South Africa’s DStv that bought the Premier Soccer League in the country for approximately $119.3m.
It is not fair to compare the television broadcast market strength of Nigeria with some of these countries, and it is perhaps only two groups of people who would not appreciate what the StarTimes deal represents for the NPFL going forward. The first group consists of clout chasers who want to be heard despite their inability to properly read the market dynamics and make an honest, informed commentary. The other group comprises those who innocently do not understand the workings of broadcast marketing but would love to see games on television.
Today, the English Premier League is considered the most valuable in terms of broadcast sales at £4.896bn spanning 2022-2025. It hasn’t always been this rich: it is the outcome of a foundation built since 1992 with the British government and private businesses working together to develop a football economy that has created jobs and become a major contributor to the Gross Domestic Product. Due to the power of television, the EPL has created a football tourism industry in the United Kingdom, including a global capital inflow from sales of broadcast rights. Punchng