The Federal Ministry of Information & Culture has announced a new directive prohibiting exclusivity of sporting rights in Nigeria. The new directive mandates media houses, broadcasters and all those who have exclusive licenses to sports contents to share such rights with others.
The Ministry of Information said the decision is in order to boost reach and also maximize utilization by all broadcasters of premium content. The statement signed by the Hon. Minister of Information, Alhaji, Lai Mohammed, said the new rule will compel broadcasters to utilize the content and services of Nigerian independent producers.
Lai Mohammed said the new rule is in line with already existing regulatory requirement that is designed to accommodate 70% local content, but is being exploited due to the loopholes in the exclusive rights of broadcasters.
“This regulation removes exclusivity and mandates the sharing of all content upon the payment of commercially viable fees,” the Minister said.
As part of the new regulations, the Ministry also directed media houses to ensure that producers of contents are paid promptly for ads and sponsored contents placed on all TV, radio, and broadcast platforms. They are also mandated to use their capacity to ensure that contents being broadcasted are localized to meet the 70% requirement.
The regulation also prevents broadcasters from using musical contents illegally, or not paying the right dues to the owners as stipulated by music rights or applicable licenses. The Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) has been directed to enforce the rules which are to come into effect in January 2020. The Information Ministry believes that the new rules will result in growth and deliver value in the broadcast industry, and most of all, protect the interest of players in the field.
While the other rules in this announcement have been praised by Nigerians, many find a fault with the one stipulating sharing of exclusive rights, and that’s because sports broadcasts thrive on the purchase of such licenses and exclusivity.
For instance, in 2007, High Television (HiTV) launched its satellite broadcast services in Nigeria, which was sports dominated. Its contents were served at the cost of N3,500 ($27.73) monthly. It was a made-in Nigeria and the first television platform in Africa to deploy Hypercable, a terrestrial pay-per view TV decoder system.
HiTV services was widely embraced as long as it was serving the English Premier League, its future was promising until 2011 when the issue of TV right purchase came in the way, and it succumbed to a competitor with more financial power – the DSTV.
In mid-2010, HiTV lost its bid to secure the highly contested $115 million English premiership broadcasting right to DSTV. The multi-channel TV had previously secured the premiership deal, but the review of the viewership right upped the continuity price to $115 million. The Nigerian indigenous TV provided $40 million but could not provide guarantee that the balance would be ready in due time due to banks’ lack of commitment in funding the deal. The result was that the DSTV saw an opportunity to get back to English Premiership broadcast in Nigeria, and has never let up since then: A year after, HiTV went out of business.
Sports business literally thrives on competition; in and out of the field of play, the price always goes to the highest bidder, and TV rights are not exempt.
The new rule introduced by the Ministry of Information means that whoever secures a broadcast license for a tournament, league or any other sports event should be willing to share such rights with others at his own loss. It will not matter how much effort and money went into it, other media houses will only have to wait on the top gun, (in this case DSTV) to acquire licenses, then feast on it by the power of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
The resultant consequence of this rule maybe the DSTV leaving Nigeria out of its countries of sports broadcast. And at a time when there is no competitor, it will be a bad business to the broadcast industry as no broadcast station would want to share its rights with others based on government’s directive. And that would amount to a bad business in a football country.
A Twitter user, Festus Green said the rule will likely force foreign owned broadcast stations operating in Nigeria to leave.
He tweeted: “Finally there would be zero sporting contents; no serious firm would secure exclusive broadcasting rights only to be forced to do give away to NTA and others in Nigeria. Once their license expires, they’d simply run away and leave us with deadbeat NTA.”
Former Lagos State Governorship aspirant, Babatunde Gbadamosi, added his voice to matter saying: “This is a communist policy, designed to reward the lazy.”
One thing certain to be achieved by this new rule of the Federal Government is the elimination of competition in its quest to quell monopoly. And since many media houses operating in the country are not functioning on public funds, they will look for countries where market forces determine prices, and where there is less government interference.
Experts say the rule is anti-business, especially at a time when the government is inviting investors to the country. Because investors will not pitch their tent in a market where the fundamental rules of competitiveness are not respected. Many opined that the government, if it wants to promote broadcast stations of Nigerian origin should provide funding for them to secure exclusive rights of contents.