Africa's Cup of Nations football tournament is now underway, and the broadcasting rights are coming under scrutiny. According to Follow the Media,
" ... TV broadcast rights fees were too stiff for some African broadcasters, sending the matches to pay-channels. But, then, the remarkable rise of the mobile phone is unleashing the power of that platform.
SportFive acquired broadcast rights for the Cup of Nations from its organizer, the Confederation of African Football, and has gone about reselling rights to whoever has the cash. This has left viewers in some countries to decide between pay-per-view and no football. SportFive is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lagardère. It is also the European broadcast rights sales agent for the UEFA Euro 2008 championships.
Football fans in Zambia, Rwanda and Kenya will miss Cup of Nations coverage on their free-to-air television channels. Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation was unable to raise the €1 million rights fee, which ZNBC General Director Joseph Salasini called “unpleasant.”
Rwanda’s national TV broadcaster was unable to raise the €290,000 rights fee. Like ZNBC, Namibian Broadcasting Corporation was asked for €1 million.
SportFive resold cup of Nations TV rights for Europe to Eurosport, for North Africa and the Middle East to ARTE Arab Group and South African mobile phone operator MIT for southern Africa.
Paris-based LC2 International bought broadcast rights for 43 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, according to its January 5th press release. Showing the contentious nature of buying and trading rights the company made clear it would litigate any infringement “immediately and systematically” and set a minimum penalty of “one euro per inhabitant of each country concerned.” LC2 operates a Benin television channel.
Nigeria’s audio-visual industry association Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON) balked at LC 2 International’s demand for €3 million for rights, offering €1.25 million. BON Chairman Abubakar B. Jijiwa, in an op-ed posted in The Guardian (Nigeria) January 14, angrily said “the days when shylock broadcast right holders ride roughshod over the Nigerian broadcasters by the jugular are over.” LC2 International asked Kenya’s public broadcaster KBC for €300,000, which it could not afford.
Cable network MultiChoice Africa, owner of the Supersport channel, bought exclusive media rights for South Africa and non-exclusive rights for the rest of Africa. During the weekend prior to the Cup of Nations MultiChoice set up a DVB-H mobile TV trial, offering a replay of the 2006 FIFA World Cup opening match to 1500 subscribers in South Africa. Clearly, the rise of mobile phone users in Africa will bring its own world-class match-up: pay-TV vs. mobile TV.
The astounding take-up of mobile phone usage in Africa has been noticed by both African and international broadcasters. In conflict zones people are sending pictures and video to television stations. Radio talk-shows have become vibrant – and often quite wild – with callers on mobile phones able to easily interact. Informa Telecoms & Media forecast 2008 mobile phone subscription growth in Africa is the highest of all the worlds’ regions, 18.7%, surpassing the Asia Pacific region at 16.05%
The attachment of sports and the mobile phone has been touted for years, at least the turn of the century. To date, reality hasn’t caught up with the promise or the investment. By the end of the year the Beijing Olympics and the Euro 2008 football championships will be history. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and all other sellers of sports rights are abundantly aware of new media’s impact, looking in every corner for more cash. But it remains with consumers, who ultimately pay for these services, to determine the sports content they want, where they want it and how they will use it. The results from Africa these next three weeks could be very revealing".