NTV in a fix over limited World Cup rights

When Nation Television (NTV) unveiled its world cup broadcast rights on May 10th, just few weeks to the tournament kick off, it did so in style, even beaming the signing of the deal with Kwese Free Sports live for nearly two hours.

In that understandable excitement – it had just snatched the lucrative deal from traditional holders KBC – the company may have over-hyped what the deal entitled it to. It said it would air 32 games at the tournament, but did not give specific games, only saying the 32 matches would include the quarters, semis and the finals.

Just three days into the games, and the reality struck. NTV’s free to air rights may have excluded high-profile games of the tournament, as Kenyans are learning to their dismay. This emerged on Friday after NTV, owned by Nation Media Group, failed to air a World Cup between Spain and Portugal, one of the most anticipated matches at the preliminary stages.

Most Kenyans who had banked on NTV were forced to watch normal programming on NTV, while others sought alternative ways to watch the game. Kenyans reacted angrily to this, accusing NTV of failing to keep the promise of airing World Cup games. However, in a quick rejoinder, NTV clarified it was restricted by FIFA rules.

“POLITE REMINDER Due to FIFA rules on World Cup broadcasting, NTV is only licensed to air 32 matches, which are allocated by FIFA. However, the action continues tomorrow as Lionel Messi’s Argentina takes on Iceland (4pm) and the Super eagles face off with Croatia (10pm),” NTV tweeted.

But this is the clarification – at least accompanied by a schedule – that Nation Media Group deliberately left out when it announced it had won the rights for free-to-air world cup matches. From the look of things, NTV will be airing mostly low-billed games and missing out on some of the big duels.

Free to air rights in Kenya belong to NTV, which secured the deal through Kwese Free Sports, a regional free to air and pay television service. NTV is expected to air ony half of the 64 games. Kwese, operated by Zimbabwean-based Econet Media, won the rights through a FIFA tender in March last year to offer “by way of free-to-air and pay-TV transmission for exploitation in all territories of sub Saharan Africa except South Africa.”

Observers say it should have listed the games its licence gives it access to well in advance to help Kenyans make decisions on which platform to watch the games.

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On Sunday night, it did not air the much-awaited match between Brazil and Switzerland (which ended in a 1-1 tie), raising questions on whether the deal is value for money for the station and worth the time for Kenyan football lovers. The station was showing its new music label programme Lit360.

This is likely to push Kenyans to Dstv and GOtv, owned by MultiChoice, which gives its subscribers access to all the games on a pay TV model. MultiChoice owned SuperSport and Startimes were granted pay-TV transmission “for exploitation in all territories of sub-Saharan Africa except South Africa.”

On it’s twitter, handle NTV said it would air Monday’s match between England and Tunisia.

Viewers are not taking this kindly:

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