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Nigeria’s Silverbird secures English Premier League rights as season kicks off

Nigeria’s Silverbird secures English Premier League rights as season kicks off

Nigeria’s Silverbird Television has secured the rights to broadcast one English Premier League (EPL) game per week during the 2020-21 season, which kicks off on Saturday.

Lagos-based Silverbird, the multimedia owner of TV and radio stations, will air one of the 3pm fixtures each Saturday on its free-to-air channel while it will also broadcast EPL-produced magazine programmes.

The broadcaster secured its rights in a sub-license deal from the Infront Sports & Media agency, the Swiss substantive rights holder for free-to-air EPL distribution rights in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Paris-based Africa division of Infront signed a deal with the EPL last year to lead free-to-air media rights sales across over 40 countries until 2022, including in South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. Infront currently has a similar deal with the government-owned Nigerian Television Authority.

The EPL season commences this Saturday, with matches again taking place behind closed doors in light of the coronavirus pandemic in the hard-hit UK. The EPL wrapped up its 2019-2020 season at the end of July after completing an expedited programme of games played in front of empty stadiums following earlier cancellations as a result of the pandemic. The conclusion saw Liverpool Football Club crowned champions.

Bola Salako, chief operating officer of Silverbird Communications, said the rights would allow the broadcaster to diversify its sports offering.

“Silverbird Television is primarily a family entertainment-oriented channel, and it is quintessential for us to ensure that our viewers get the best of every appropriate programming genre. Sports is a major part of our content offering and football in particular as the acclaimed ‘king of sports’ holds particular appeal to a large section of our target demographic. And with the new Premier League season on the horizon we are looking forward to team up with Integral on this exciting new project of bringing premium sporting content to mass numbers of Nigerian viewers.”

Research from Nielsen Sports and the EPL in 2018/19 established that cumulative global audiences for live EPL programming rose 11% to 1.35 billion. International rights are increasingly important for the league after the value of UK domestic rights fell by $900m in the most recent auction, held in 2018, which covered rights for the 2019-2022 seasons.

Yet the EPL has also had difficulties in international markets. Last week, it terminated its $720m deal with Chinese broadcaster PPTV two years early over unpaid money. It was reported that that the company had withheld a $207m instalment that was due in March.

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Written by David Thomas

David Thomas is the Editor of African Business Magazine. He has also been published in the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist and South Africa's Cape Times.

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