Russia 2018: Poor Africa showing and TV rights confusion

By: Francis Doku
 Russia 2018 World Cup
The Senegal team at Russia 2018
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RUSSIA 2018 FIFA World Cup has since begun and as predicted there has been a huge interest and excitement in the tournament from Ghanaian football fans.

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There have been some major upsets since the opening of Russia 2018 last Thursday with big names such as Argentina and Brazil drawing with significantly lesser opponents like Iceland and Switzerland.

There are even worse results for other football powers with an example being defending champions Germany losing to Mexico in their opening match last Sunday.

It is true Ghana did not qualify to this particular World Cup after doing so on three consecutive times in 2006, 2010 and 2014, yet many of our contemporaries had hoped the countries that qualified would be worthy representatives of the African continent.

However, until last Tuesday when the last African country, Senegal, would play in the first round, none of them had shown themselves approved enough at Russia 2018.

Egypt lost their opening match (and on Tuesday night lost again to the host nation by 3:1) to Uruguay, Morocco was dealt with by Iran, Nigeria lost their own to Croatia and Tunisia was beaten by England leaving the Senegalese to try to redeem the image of the continent, which they did with flying colours.

Perhaps the rest of the African countries would pick up their game and do better than Egypt did in the remaining matches in the group stage to ensure that they make it out of the groups to the next stage of the competition. Otherwise, it will be a disastrous and shambolic participation by the continent.

Africa’s poor performance thus far aside, Russia 2018 has been very effervescent, enthusiastic and enthralling. There have been some great football showpieces and very exciting matches such as Spain versus Portugal that saw Cristiano Ronaldo banging in three goals and the blinder of a match between Mexico and Germany!

This is why I am convinced that the football gods have been very generous to us lovers of the game in Russia 2018 even before the first round of matches would end.

Russia 2018 TV rights confusion

Meanwhile, back home in Ghana, many football fans are exasperated about why the national broadcaster, GTV would show only 32 matches of Russia 2018 when the tournament has a total 64 matches on offer thus making it impossible for them to watch all the matches.

There were several posts and comments on social media to the effect. Some said they did not understand why GTV could not just find money to buy the rights to show all the matches of Russia 2018 despite people paying TV licence fee, among other reasons why they feel there can be no excuse for not showing all the matches.

It is in view of this that on Saturday I put up a post on Facebook to explain what I understand about the television broadcast and transmission rights FIFA sold for Africa and why GTV should not carry the blame for what they have to show during Russia 2018.

I wish to reproduce that text here in toto to help those who may not have visited my Facebook page, but have their own questions to understand and appreciate the issues. Kindly see below:

I feel duty bound to give a bit of explanation about why GTV can't and should not be expected to show all the matches at the ongoing Russia 2018 World Cup tournament. I have seen a few posts and comments about the subject and I think it is unfair to the national broadcaster to expect them to show all the matches.

The rights GTV has are the free-to-air (FTA) rights which they got from Econet Media, operators of Kwese TV and Kwese Free Sport. Maybe I should explain that Econet Media operates two television business models in Ghana and in some markets in Africa.

They operate a multi-channel, set top box enabled direct-to-home (DTH) model known as Kwese TV, direct competition to DStv and StarTimes, if you like, and an FTA channel known as Kwese Free Sport or the re-branded Viasat1 TV.

So Kwese Free Sport competes with the local FTA channels like TV3, GTV, Metro TV, TV Africa, GhOne TV, etc despite their niche focused content of sports.

So when Kwese TV says they would show all 64 matches they are referring to the subscription based DTH platform and not on KFS, which has the FTA rights. That has 32 matches and that is what they have partnered with GTV and Metro TV to show.

Their parent company, Econet Media acquired the FTA rights for sub-Saharan Africa and so any broadcaster in these markets that wanted to show the World Cup matches needed to speak to them and that's how GTV and Metro TV come in.

They bought the rights available for the market from Kwese. You can only buy what is being sold and nothing more and that is the 32 matches.

Maybe for a bit of elucidation, the only organisation that had the FTA rights for sub-Saharan Africa, minus South Africa is Econet Media. SABC, on the other hand, had the other FTA rights, but only for South Africa.

Econet Media also got the pay-TV or DTH rights for sub-Sahara Africa, except South Africa. Supersport, got the pay-TV rights throughout the sub-Saharan Africa region. StarTimes, got the pay-TV rights throughout the sub-Saharan Africa region, except in South Africa.

CANAL+, got the pay-TV rights throughout the sub-Saharan Africa region (but of course mostly in Francophone countries), except in South Africa and Nigeria.

FIFA also granted Econet Media, Supersport, SABC and StarTimes further media rights for other FIFA events for 2017-2018. So, to emphasise, GBC could only partner with Econet Media's local FTA shop to show what was available to be shown on FTA.

If you want to watch all the 64 matches in the comfort of your your room, subscribe to DStv, Kwese TV or StarTimes and you will get it all.

Thankfully, all the DTH platforms have dropped subscription rates to ensure as many people as can would watch all the Russia 2018 matches. Chale, FIFA rights are expensive and they can't all be given free of charge.