Behind-the-scenes deal-making that saw the Russia 2018 World Cup TV broadcasting rights in Kenya finally awarded to NTV have emerged, where a senior manager at Kwese Free Sports, which won the free-to-air rights for the region from FIFA, may have arm-twisted public broadcaster KBC.
Ms Monica Ndung’u, the Sports General Manager at Kwese, is alleged to have frustrated the national broadcaster’s management, making them let go off the rights which it has always got in the past years. Ms Ndung’u, a former TV Programmes Manager at KBC, offered the broadcaster an expensive take-it-or-leave-it deal.
According to sources, Ms Ndung’u did not announce competitive bidding for the rights and instead quietly approached KBC managers, who offered to pay Ksh75 million to obtain them. However, she proposed that the deal to air the 32 free-to-air matches be struck on a 50:50 percent revenue basis, meaning Kwese TV was to also get half of the money generated by KBC from advertising and sponsorships during the World Cup season. Kwese TV acquired the FIFA free-to-air broadcasting rights for Sub-Saharan region except South Africa.
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She similarly never gave out FIFA’s contacts to KBC, meaning it could not follow up on how the bidding process, which started in March last year was being undertaken. There are claims she was the one in direct contact with FIFA officials in Zurich, Switzerland.
When KBC managers failed to play ball, Ms Ndung’u, who was known as Monica Wacheke while working at KBC, then approached Nation Media Group, which bought the rights for NTV at Ksh 50 million. A similar saga in 2010, landed then KBC managing director David Waweru and company secretary Hezekiel Oira, among others.
It is not yet clear whether NTV agreed to co-share advertising revenue accrued from the airing of the FTA (free to air) World Cup matches but given that the deal will only give 32 matches out of 64 and the fact that the big games are likely to go to Pay-TV stations at a premium price, such an arrangement is unlikely and hence the lower selling price.
But as to how Kwese TV agreed to the Ksh50 million deal in the process losing Ksh25 million under the KBC deal, the jury is still out.
Given that KBC has previously procured the rights at Ksh75 million, it is also not clear whether Kwese was seeking to squeeze out a premium.
During the signing ceremony, Nation Media Group CEO Stephen Gatagama expressed delight on clinching the deal.
“We are delighted to give our views in Kenya and elsewhere an opportunity to watch the greatest sports show – the FIFA World Cup – at the comfort of their homes, social establishment and other viewing centres,” he said.
“As we all know, the World Cup comes around once every four years and is the biggest, globally most watched event in the world. This partnership underscores again yet out total commitment towards promoting sports and providing entertainment our audiences,” he added.
In 2010, KBC had been given Ksh75 million to buy the World Cup rights and was expected to recover the money through advertising. However, KBC then allegedly approached Radio Africa Group’s Patrick Quarco, who agreed to a Ksh 110 million agreement to co-screen the world cup matches.
But the agreement was said to have fallen through when Radio Africa Group lost a Ksh 110 million deal it had entered into with Committee of Experts to educate the public on the proposed Constitution during the World Cup season after SK Macharia’s Royal Media Services snapped it up.
In May 2012, they were put on their defence on a*********s of irregular tendering of broadcast rights but when he was being vetted for a county executive committee position in 2013 for Murang’a County, Waweru termed the story a fabrication, stating investigations were done and he was cleared and the matter settled out of court. He was subsequently appointed county executive for e*******n, information and technology.
In court pleadings when he unsuccessfully sued the Standard Group, which wrote the story, Oira also claimed the story was manufactured because of media rivalry on World Cup rights with the media house, which was reportedly seeking to co-share the TV rights. The story was based on a report by the Inspectorate of State Corporations and an interview with the Information PS Bitange Ndemo.
He also denied single sourcing rights with FIFA, claiming there were KBC cartels who wanted to inflate prices and that his services were terminated after he refused to succumb to those cartels over World Cup Rights.
Previously, KBC had an easy time as it automatically got the rights from the African Union of Broadcasting but the system changed when FIFA took advantage of the entrenchment of Pay-TV stations to sell some games at the best price.