I made N120,000 from Nigeria-Burkina Faso match – Viewing centre operator

veiw       Nigerian television stations are not airing the ongoing African Nations Cup due to a stalemate between the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria and the rights owners of the event. In this piece, Udeme Ekwere counts the gains and losses resulting from this impasse

Mr. Linus Eze operates a television viewing centre in Ikeja, Lagos where people gather to watch matches in European leagues.

Eze makes about N10,000 anytime people gather to watch a European league match. It can rise to as much as N30,000 when it is a UEFA Champions League match.

But the crisis over the airing of the ongoing 29th edition of the African Cup of Nations in South Africa has brought some good fortune his way.

He told our correspondent on Wednesday that Monday’s group match between Nigeria and Burkina Faso swelled his purse, as he made over N120,000 from the large crowd that converged on his viewing centre.

He said, “Our market is the European Champions League and other various local leagues in Europe, especially the English Premier League and the Spanish La Liga. The money we are making in the ongoing Nations Cup is coming in as a big bonus we did not expect at all.

“ It is very fantastic. Because the games are two daily and people are interested because of Team Nigeria, we charge N100 per head.

“I have a big place that can take over 100 people but now I have had to rent a canopy to create room for about 40 people outside. I still try to control the situation to maintain order.

“For Nigeria’s game, I made over N120,000 from tickets, food and drinks because people came with their friends, relatives and even children to watch the Super Eagles. This is a big boom for us. It might sound selfish but the truth is I pray this crisis continues,” he said.

The viewing centre operator is making a fortune from the fact that the competition is not being aired by broadcast stations in Nigeria because of stalled negotiations between the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria and the France-based right owners of the event, SportFive.

Investigations showed that SportFive, which has LC2 as media/marketing affiliate in Africa, was asking for N1.6bn which BON argued was outrageous and unacceptable.

Negotiations, which started in October 2012 broke down last week and so no Nigerian television station is currently broadcasting the matches.

Eze told our correspondent that he made over N200,000 in the first two days of the competition and for Nigeria’s game.

He stressed that the amazing aspect of the turn of events was the fact that nobody saw it coming, especially since the kind of blackout being experienced on free-to-air stations has never happened before for a big competition like the Nations Cup.

The story is the similar for Mr. Stephen Olaoye, who has his viewing centre in Dopemu, Agege. He charges N70 per head.

His words, “I made over N70,000 the day Nigeria played against Burkina Faso and the patronage has been doubled this period, because many people are following the Nations Cup.

“I actually thought the BON issue on rights would be resolved until I observed the way people trooped in for the first match day on Saturday. I actually charged N100 that day because people were watching EPL games with the Nations Cup simultaneously.”

The Nations Cup is just one week old and it is expected that the viewing centres will remain the options for Nigerians without cable television in their homes.

The Secretary of BON, Mr. Segun Olaleye, told our correspondent that it was sad that Nigerians could not watch the games on free-to-air television stations.

Olaleye said negotiations broke down because the right holders, SportFive, were asking BON for over 60 per cent of the money paid to buy the rights from the Confederation of African Football.

The BON secretary said, “The situation is laughable and ridiculous. We started negotiations last October and they insisted on €4.5m. We were even ready to pay up to $2.5m but they did not agree. The time we had left before the Nations Cup was less than a week when they became so difficult. So even if we managed to buy the rights, we had so little time to market it and make money for the investment.

“Good enough, Nigerians are watching the games through Multichoice, which bought the cable television rights. Now, the right owners too will have the problem of not providing the content for Nigeria because some advertisers a Nigerian audience.

“Again, because the competition is Orange Nations Cup, our telecommunication outfits cannot advertise. They also had international sponsors like Coca Cola and Standard Bank. It also means Nigerian banks and Coca Cola Nigeria will not be interested in the project. Our expectations on advert revenue were restricted, so we cannot agree on a huge fee.”

Olaleye said officials of SportFive called him on Wednesday to ask what could be done for Nigeria and he told them the matter was closed.

“The opening ceremony is gone and the first round of matches played. The event is almost over and so we need to make a statement so that they will not take us for a ride next time. This is exploitation and that was why we did not agree to their terms.

“I am happy that television owners in the country spoke with one voice and we had the backing of the senate and even the government because the minister was furious when we gave him all the figures and the correspondences we exchanged with the right owners.”

However, there is another set of Nigerians in pains over the current impasse.

These are the advertisers who had been waiting to use the Nations Cup window to promote their products and other outfits that had plans to use the AFCON broadcasts to package various programmes.

The Chief Executive Officer, Hotsports, Mr. Taye Ige, said his outfit had plans to stage a one-hour programme every evening for the duration of the event and the current impasse has halted the plans.

He said, “What the rights owners are asking for is very abnormal and the position of BON is good so that next time Nigeria will be respected. I am aware that the right owners will also lose with the way things are.

“Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa are the major markets and Egypt did not qualify for the tournament; which means the rights are only being marketed in South Africa. Sixty seconds on NTA is about N500,000 and so we are doing good broadcast business here, but we have to be wise in buying rights.

“What amazes me is that in 2012, Hotsports concluded arrangements to buy the rights for $2m and it was just because Nigeria failed to qualify that made us to back out. How come it is now €4.5m? It has been over prized.”

An official of an advert agency who preferred anonymity said, “It is very sad. We have spent money to get people who prepared both radio and television commercials for us and they were to be used during the games. Now, we cannot use the commercials because the matches are not being shown here.”

A sports analyst, Mr. Segun Agbede, told our correspondent that he was shocked about the development.

“I was ready for the event but was disappointed with the offer from the rights owners. One cannot blame BON.

“When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. Some analysts could have made some money during this event but that has been botched. I believe next time they will not over price their product,” Agbede said.

Saturday Punch Nigeria