There is palpable excitement in the sport television market following the announcement of the 2018 FIFA World Cup media rights for Sub-Saharan Africa last week. Alongside the usual suspects SuperSport, newcomers Kwese TV and StarTimes have acquired various rights to screen the 2017 Confederations Cup, the junior men’s tournaments as well as the women’s tournaments.
While SuperSport has held the African pay television market by the scruff of the neck for several years, new players Kwese and StarTimes are flexing their muscles and challenging the monopoly of the South African behemoth.
StarTimes has been puffing for a while now and saw an increase in sales of digital decoders and antennas when it won rights to the 2015 Fifa tournaments (Women’s World Cup and men’s U17 & U20) for sub-Saharan Africa.
Sport has always been a major incentive for the purchase of cable TV subscription. In the United States, ESPN continues to be the most expensive channel to watch. Unlike movies and other programing, sport is unpredictable so it draws large audiences. And because live sport is consumed as it is produced, it has a higher premium than any other kind of TV content. The 2014 World Cup had a cumulative audience of 3.2billion with 98,087 hours of broadcast (FIFA TV Audience Report).
Nigerians love live sport and regularly pack viewing centres and bars in order to watch European football. As the NTA (with average viewership of 16.7m for Brazil 2014) and other national broadcasters have become unable to compete for global sports rights, SuperSport has been the benefactor of the crave for global sport.
While StarTimes’ offering has not been up to the same quality one has come to expect of cable TV, Kwese Free Sports seems to have an ace up its sleeve. It has introduced one free English Premier League game via its mobile app every weekend and is set to expand its reach across the continent through the Confederations Cup and World Cup. From a marketing perspective, it has an opportunity to grow its brand to become an important voice in the African media market.
For advertisers, it is most likely SuperSport would remain the first option with StarTimes and Kwese Sports hoping to take a significant bite of that money. Still, the World Cup advertising market in Nigeria depends very much on the Super Eagles qualifying for Russia 2018. If they do, there would be a windfall like Brazil 2014 where brands fell over themselves to run campaigns in the frenzy of the tournament. With more broadcast rights owners, would top brands spread the money around or remain with their trusted ally?
Kwese Sports’ survival will depend on how much they are able to commercialize their new property. The next several months would confirm if our new found excitement about changes in the sport television market has been worth it.