Chinese Pay-tv broadcast platform StarTimes on Thursday, November 25 terminated its broadcast rights agreement for the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League (FKF-PL).
FKF had unveiled StarTimes as TV broadcast partner for the top-flight ahead of the 2020/21 season in a deal worth Ksh$1.1 million a year (Ksh123 million a year). Noting that they honored their end of the agreement, StarTimes broke down reasons why it terminated the deal, placing the blame on the Nick Mwendwa led federation.
The exit of StarTimes leaves Milele FM, the radio partner, as the top-flight league’s only sponsor. Former title sponsor BetKing terminated their Ksh1.2 billion agreement after only one season.
The announcement by StarTimes comes amid a fallout in Kenyan football that has seen the Ministry of Sports oust FKF President Nick Mwendwa over alleged corruption and form a caretaker committee to steer Kenyan football for a six-month period. Mwendwa was arrested on November 12 but was released on November 25, with his file closed after the prosecution failed to file any charges.
The StarTimes deal was never short of opponents. Nick took on Mathare United, Gor Mahia and now-relegated Zoo Kericho after the clubs initially refused to sign the agreement claiming clubs were being bullied into accepting the terms without consultation.
Some fans also complained over poor broadcast quality and inaccessibility, yearning for the SuperSport days when South Africa’s MultiChoice held the rights. SuperSport ended their partnership with the league after clashing with FKF over Nick Mwendwa’s push to increase the teams in the league.
Noting that its brand had been put in danger, StarTimes cited failure to deliver a number of scheduled broadcast fixtures as the first reason for the termination. In particular, the firm cited the Mashemeji Derby last season boycotted by AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia.
The two sides had boycotted the match in protest as FKF had failed to release prize monies for the FKF Betway Cup where they both made it to the finals. Mwendwa responded by hitting the giants with fines of Ksh 6M for AFC Leopards and Ksh4M for Gor Mahia.
Startimes also cited frequent changes to the fixture schedules causing difficulties in production and marketing.
“We have had to work with an unstable fixture that has constantly changed, sometimes on short notice. This has led to lack of cohesion and promotion of wrong fixtures which ultimately translated to limited awareness of broadcasted matches,” the firm noted in a statement.
StarTimes also put FKF on the spot for failing to honor agreed contract deliverables including failure to broadcast weekly Free-to-Air (FTA) matches, failing to provide weekly magazine shows and not acknowledging the media sponsor in broadcasts.
The firm went on to cite persistent wrangling in the football fraternity as another reason for its exit.
“Being a subscription broadcaster who leverages on content popularity, the constant confrontation has led to limited uptake and viewership of the property as seen through monitored performance on our platform,” the statement read in part.
FKF was also blamed for bringing the StarTimes brand into disrepute with the firm noting that failure to deliver scheduled matches had sparked consumer backlash.