*Re: FG Prohibits Exclusivity in Broadcast Premium Sport Rights Contents*
By: Shehu Dikko
I have followed the divergent views and opinions with regards to the FG directives to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to vigorously enforce the provisions of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code 2019. Specifically issue of Monopoly of Premium contents in sports rights among others. What concerns us here, really is the Sports Rights Issue and as someone that has had the Privilege to be involved in this market for several years and indeed the engagement with Government since 2017 when the process of the review of the NBC code started, I thus provides the following intervention so as to deepened the conversion and expand our understanding of the issue:
1. The policy by FGN is apparently being viewed by some as targeted at DSTv and or EPL. It may appear so, but it’s far from the reality and the objectives. The policy is basically a general one concerning monopoly of premium content in the sports industry among others across the Nigeria Broadcasting eco system. Thus it applies to all networks and premium contents. For example, the same way it may apply to DSTV with regards to say EPL and Champions league it will also apply to STARTIMES with regards to Europa Cup and Bundesliga etc. in terms of contents the same way it applies to EPL, UCL, Europa, LALIGA etc it will apply to NPFL, meaning NPFL rights as a prime football content would not be sold as a monopoly within the NIGERIAN broadcast space. Thus at the end of the day this policy will balance up and will be a win win situation for both the broadcasters, the contents owners, and indeed the viewing (sports) public as has been proven across so many jurisdictions that have implemented the same policies successfully.
2. This policy is already a law in Nigeria since the adoption of the revised NBC code on July 4th 2019. The revision of the code took almost 3 years to conclude with several level of stakeholder consultations across the country by NBC (I was privilege to have been part of some of the consultation) before the final copy was agreed and officially launched in Kano on July 4th 2019.
3. So really the Government is simply giving directives to NBC to enforce the provisions of new code that was approved in accordance to the law.
4. The 1st question to ask is that is this sports broadcast regulations enacted and or encourage in other jurisdictions? The answer is resounding yes? The 2nd question is does this kind of regulation help develop the industry and indeed stimulate growth in sports ? The answer is a resounding yes.
5. The following are some key examples of similar regulations and or other broadcast laws enacted in some jurisdictions and how they operate:
a) SOUTH AFRICA:
Since 2014 the ICASA (the Independent communicators authority of South Africa), similar to our NBC have enacted several broadcast legislation specific to sports to deepened the broadcasts industry and indeed sports including breaking of monopoly in premium sports content including PSL and EPL rights. It’s because of this legislation that ensured the PSL rights, even though exclusively owned by DSTV is also shown by SABC (with 50% of the games also shown live on SABC) with also a provision that the big derbies should be shown across all networks including FTA. Even as at 2019 the ICASA in South Africa introduce additional regulations, similar to what is done in Nigeria now
From the foregoing it’s clear even in South Africa Similar regulations as being enforced by FGN now do exist.
b) *UNITED KINGDOM *:
In the UK the OFCOM (office of communications), which is similar to our NBC and NCC in one body, has been issuing several regulations to regulate and promote sports broadcasting in UK. The anti-competition office has also been involve in the regard. This is what ensured the unbundling of the EPL domestic rights and enforcement of other regulations/convention in the Uk sports broadcast space such as the Saturday’s 3pm to 5pm blackout of live Football matches across all networks which is simply aimed to ensure attendance in the stadiums across all match venues at all levels of football as a lot of matches are scheduled around this time and also to deepened the economic activities/productivity around all the Fans going to the stadiums and back. Also, some years back, only Sky has the exclusive rights to EPL and other premium
Sports in UK but once the EPL rights were in unbundled and other networks such as BT got involved, competition was created and the income for the domestic rights increase by almost 70% from what if uses to be under monopoly. Inspite of the huge success of the competition between Sky and BT to the EPL revenues, the OFCOM office still opened investigation into the EPL rights sales due to complaints from other broadcasters as it still seems to negate the competition Principles. The investigation was only close after the EPL agreed to increase the number of live Matches available to the public in UK and to also implement the “No Single Buyer” principle in its next auction for the EPL rights.
From the above it’s evident that even in UK the broadcast regulations and the anti-competition authorities are very active in regulating the sale and distribution of the EPL Rights among other prime sports contents to ensure there is no monopoly and the contents is available to the widest public as much as possible.
One interesting thing about the EPL is that, even in UK where the games are played not all the matches are live on TV while down here the entire 360 EPL matches are live to us on TV? Also why is it that no live games are shown in the UK on Saturday’s between 3pm to 5pm? Someone is certainly thinking and protecting the industry and indeed the sport in the UK.
c) GERMANY :
In Germany similar Regulations is being implemented with the “No single Buyer” principle vigorously enforced by the broadcast regulators and anti competition office. This has help the success of the Bundesliga and other sports as well as the development of the broadcast industry.
In Spain the “No single buyer” rule is also applied with mediapro and Telefonica among others always competing for rights. In addition to this the Spanish Government passed a landmark royal decree in 2015 to outlaw the selling of LALIGA TV rights individually by clubs but must be sold collectively like EPL and even legislate on how the revenues will be distributed across by the league to the clubs. Prior to this legislation clubs in Spain sell rights individually and obviously only Barcelona and Real
Madrid were taking over 60% of the revenues available while morethan 40 clubs scramble for the rest. But this single legislation by Spanish Govt changed everything in LALIGA with revenues moved from an average of €600m to over €2b annually and an equitable revenue distribution model .
From the above it’s evident several jurisdictions do enact specific and targeted legislation to protect and promote their domestic broadcast industry and sports. This is because broadcast is the heart of sports.
In France They too have several Broadcasting regulations aimed at promoting the industry and sports as well. Just recently the French Government issued a targetted intervention via regulations to aid football and indeed sports by the empowerment of the public broadcaster to be able to compete with cable TV
rights holders. The French council of state agreed to direct the CSA (the French version of NBC ) to relax some regulations via exemptions regarding advertisements so as to allow the public broadcaster to air advertisement after 8pm. This is to enable the public broadcasters to be able to attract more advertising revenues during broadcasts of league 1 games so as to be able to compete with cable tv in the acquisition of sports rights. The French Council of State has also recommended a review of France’s listed events legislation to ensure greater visibility for women’s sport and the Paralympic Games, and measures to protects sports events against the increasing threat posed by piracy.
In Morroco, they even operate a model, where premium Sports rights including the Morroco National teams games and League is acquired by Government through the public broadcaster whom in turn shows the game and also sub-license some to other broadcasters including cable tv. The public broadcaster recoups its investment via advertising revenues and also the sub-licensing income. Meanwhile the Moroccon Government uses this model to ensure the public broadcaster remains relevant and also guaranteed the well being of their sports as adequate revenue goes to the sports to ensure sustainable development.
Until recently Argentina also uses this model.
7. So in view of the foregoing examples it’s very clear that what the FGN is trying to do is what is obtainable across the world and it’s not targeted at any party but to develop and enhance the broadcast industry in Nigeria , the interest of the public as well the Sports industry and its development.
8. The question to ask is do Nigeria have the ingredient and necessary foundations to make this legislation a success? From the benchmarks on ground the answer to this is in the affirmative. This includes the fact that, we have the numbers in Nigeria to make economic sense to any mass business run properly, there is huge advertising revenues available in the market (which has shown great appetite for local content) and thus once any networks have access to premium contents they can be able to break even. This will eventually translate to more reach and revenues for the sports. The public will also be the winner as the premium sports content will be more accessible and cheaper. For the Industry it’s means more broadcast houses making profits and competing to deliver good services including more jobs opportunities.
9. Indeed, the outcome of the unbundling of the Telco industry in Nigeria is a good pointer to what could happened if we get this policy right as it’s obvious access to prime sports content is a key driver to the growth and survival of any broadcast network.
10. In Conclusion, from all available indices, It’s the manipulation of the exclusivity of premium contents including that of football, that stalled the growth of the entire broadcast industry and pauparized all the other networks as the eye balls, subscription and advertising revenues all goes in one direction and this have a direct effect on our sports both in terms of visibility and income. Thus the urgent need to redress the situation and the steps taking by FGN is in the right direction and it needs to be supported across board.
SHEHU DIKKO is of the Nigerian professional league.