African football gets TV boost
The average African football fan wishes for two things: that they will be around the day a team from the continent lifts the World Cup, and that even if they never see that happen, they will at least be able to watch African teams in action from the distance of a television screen and the comfort of a couch. The latter does not seems like too much to ask, does it?
Until Thursday, it has been.
African viewers have often been deprived of the chance to watch their team in action in anything from friendlies against each other to the African Nations' Cup (ANC) and its preceding qualifiers because of the cost of television rights, which are produced by an international organisation and which local companies have been unable to afford.
French company Sportfive holds the exclusive media rights for the ANC, the African Nations' Championship -- the competition for players based domestically only -- the African Under-20 championship, the CAF Champions League, the CAF Confederations Cup and the CAF Super Cup.
While Sportfive are willing to sell those rights to terrestrial broadcasters around the continent, they demand a hefty fee that is beyond the means of most. In 2012, Sportfive initially asked for 1,000,000 euros (US$1.335) from African broadcasters to screen the ANC. That figure was revised down to 600,000 Euros (US$801,036), but it was still too much for a company like the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).
The ZBC noted that they had paid only US$150,000 for the 2010 World Cup rights so they could not understand why they had to pay more than four times that for an ANC. They also did not think they were the only ones who were being shortchanged by Sportfive's ANC demand. "How many broadcasters in Africa can afford this amount? We are still negotiating with them for a further reduction which we can afford," ZBC spokesperson Sivukile Simango asked at the time.
The following year, in 2013, Nigeria had a similar problem. SportFive reportedly asked for 6,000,000 Euros (US$8.01 million) from the Broadcasting Operations of Nigeria (BON) to screen the ANC. BON's main complaint was that other countries were being asked to fork out far less for the same rights and they felt they were being taken advantage of.
While they did not pay up and Nigerian fans were blacked out for most of the tournament, they eventually reached an agreement to air the final. Just as well, because not only were Nigeria playing in it but they went on to win and were crowned continental champions.
Blackouts of that nature will soon be a thing of the past, particularly for viewers in sub-Saharan Africa. South African-based company SuperSport, which has grown from nothing more than a segment on television in 1988 to the world's biggest Premier League broadcaster 26 years later, have bought the rights to 50 of the 168 ANC qualifiers, which begin in September.
The matches run over six weekends between September and November and a minimum of seven games will be shown each weekend in high definition. SuperSport's main focus is Africa's two biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, for whom they will broadcast every ANC qualifier their teams participate in. The same will go for Ghana, Angola and Zambia.
Two-thirds of the games featuring Uganda, Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho and Tanzania will be screened, and toward the latter stages of the qualification games, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Egypt and Algeria will also make appearances on the silver screen.
These matches will be accessible to viewers in sub-Saharan Africa. While SuperSport remains a satellite television service, for which viewers pay an additional fee, their ability to put African football on air will ensure a larger number of people can watch the continent's biggest game and proves that sometimes, wishes do come true.