The importance of television rights and leagues in Kenya cannot be overstated.
Through these contracts, television networks disperse an enormous amount of currency locally to the soccer leagues and clubs.
Television rights and distribution are the lifeblood of any league in any sport not only locally but across the globe.
The Kenya Premier League used to earn over 500million shillings either directly or indirectly as a result of the league being aired live on TV by Super sport and the National Super league is already taking baby steps towards the same by signing a deal with local broadcaster Bamba Sports.
The existence of Super Sport in airing local matches was viewed as a testament of growth in the league and more importantly the growth of local clubs to reach many households in Kenya.
I delve into the importance of TV deals on the Kenya premier League and club level because it’s being reported Super Sport will not renege on their termination of contract with the Kenya Premier League even after Football Kenya Federation desperately tried to intervene and give assurances in the matter that KPL still has the mandate to run the league until 2020.
Funding through TV deals is what drives sports leagues to success. On club level, the local TV arrangements, now Bamba Sports and NSL are what represent the clubs to the rest of the community.
Unfortunately in the ten year period Super Sport had been broadcasting live Kenyan football none of the football clubs took an advantage of the same to build a brand, sell it and hence generate more revenue from it or be able to attract other broadcasters on board.
The pessimistic or rather ignorant view, in the increase of teams in the league which in most cases serves the contrary but increase revenue, from the public elucidates the lack of comprehension of TV revenue. More teams in the league will increase the number of televised matches, hence more money through grants and adverts on TV.
The FIFA world cup increase of teams is as a result of forecasted increase in revenue if more teams are accommodated. It’s just creating the right product that’s required.
There has been a plethora of opinion as to why Super sport decided to exit the Kenyan market via broadcasting the KPL which accounted for 90% of their local operations.
DSTV subscriptions have gone down in the last three years due to the availability of fast, reliable internet, which enables sports lovers to watch live matches at cheaper rates from the comfort of their mobile phones and smart TVs.
This is evidenced by the entry of Facebook in partnership with local internet operator Surf Kenya, rolled out Express Wi-Fi-a service set up in more than 100 hotspots in high traffic areas, meant to provide affordable internet-in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa. Mark Zuckerberg’s personal visit is enough proof as to why Kenya is referred as hub of technology in Africa. Kenya is a leader in technology. Sports broadcasting sooner or later will move to social media where the likes of Facebook and google will be buying sports telecasting rights.
Kwese Sports which has hit the headlines recently by luring former Super Sports employees like Chiko Lawi into their stations is on Free-to-Air decoders and shows the NBA and EPL matches every Saturday. Others opine the entry of competitors such as Star Times, and Bamba Sport which offer a variety of sports channels cheaply. Signal piracy has also not helped their course.
Whatever the reasons that led to the exit of Supersport from Kenyan football, the fact remains a fast and tangible solution has to be found. In the existing exclusive rights contract signed between Supersport and KPL highlight packages (if there were any) on sports recap shows lacked the desired attention towards KPL that soccer fans wanted to see. In depth interviews, analysis and discussions about football were given minimum attention and more attention given on the glamor of the EPL or La Liga. There were no recap shows of players before and after matches.
So how can this problem change? How can the FKF and KPL cut through the enormous untapped tide of Kenyan sports coverage and capture the attention of the sporting public?
The cabinet Secretary for sports, culture and arts, Dr. Hassan Wario has publicly championed to increase the taxation of betting, lottery and gaming companies to 50% of their gross earnings, in addition to the 50% corporate tax charged annually has not gone down well with many sports stakeholders. The measure is aimed at raising funds for sports, cultural and arts promotion via the national sports fund. This, if adopted, may stifle growth of the betting companies that are at the nascent stage, others may fold up (through acquisitions or winding up) hence job losses and the surviving ones (mainly through mergers) may withdraw from sports sponsorships killing the sports industry ailing from insufficient revenue. The tax on the companies, an attempt of the government to try and stop Kenyans from gambling and betting, may not work because the betters and gamblers are not taxed but the companies.
Perhaps the government can enter into a broadcasting partnership with FKF via Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. FKF could sell their premium content on an exclusive and platform neutral basis and standard content on a non-exclusive basis. This maximizes customer reach. In the partnership the betting companies can be prevailed upon to take over the costs of human resource and logistics of broadcasting.
Approximately 200 contractual employees will lose their jobs as a result of Super Sport exiting the Kenyan market. These highly trained producers, cameramen, commentators, analysts, hosts and drivers can be roped in the deal. The state of the art Ksh. 500 million studios along Ngong road can be leased to KBC for use of the sports broadcasting shows. The private public partnership can easily acquire state of the art OB vans for the same project.
KBC has the potential of reaching each and every household of the vast majority of Kenya instead of cable or satellite television.
Television ratings speak louder than attendance or web traffic. Television ratings cultivate interest from sponsors that throw money at the networks for their highest rated shows. The proceeds from advertisement can be channeled into national sports lottery for the purpose of developing sports in general. When networks have high rated shows, they want more of that show, or in this case soccer.
A good rating should yield another local or international broadcast, maybe even more. . This will be a win-win situation for all the parties involved. The government will get the revenue expected from sports, create jobs and the revue collected used in promotion of arts and culture. The betting companies will be involved in the promotion of sports as expected and the sports industry will benefit from revenue created via broadcasting rights directly or indirectly via partnerships with other corporates whose visibility can be exposed through stadium adverts during live matches.
Harold Ndege is a Sports Consultant and former Tusker FC player.