Scramble for Africa’s sports rights

As the increasing demand for sports channels across Africa remains largely untapped, new entrants are looking to enter the market and existing players are looking to intensify their investment in the space.

The notable M&A deal currently being reported TMT Finance in the sector is the potential sale of Multichoice (http://www.tmtfinance.com/news/surprise-bidders-multichoice) which owns Africa’s biggest sport channel SuperSport and has so far attracted the likes of MTN, Vivendi and Econet Wireless, according to TMT Finance sources. Multichoice would offer scale, with a subscriber base exceeding 10 million across 50 countries. MTN, although now not understood to be involved in the process, has more generally been rethinking its strategy and could start investing more heavily in sports, content and media (http://www.tmtfinance.com/news/mtn-prepares-new-strategy).

Another key player in the sector could be Kwese Sports, part of the Zimbabwe’s Econet Wireless Group, whose development of fibre provider Liquid Telecom has so far been extremely successful. The new subsidiary branded Econet Media has very strong ambitions on the continent and is reportedly looking to spend above US$1bn on content acquisition. Kwese recently announced it signed a four-year deal with UEFA to broadcast the UEFA EURO 2020 finals as well as the preceding qualifiers in all Sub-Saharan African countries excluding South Africa. Although the company has a long way to go before it can compete with SuperSport, sister company Liquid’s extensive network in Sub-Saharan Africa could offer real distribution synergies.

Another notable player is Vivendi-owned Canal Plus which this week announced the launch of a new sports channel for its overseas subsidiary that serves 25 French-speaking countries across sub-Saharan Africa. The channel, named A+ Sport, will feature major African football competitions and matches from European leagues, such as the French Ligue 1. Canal Plus did not reveal the cost of the project but the move is part of ongoing overhaul of the French company which decided to focus more on its African subsidiary as it struggles in its home market. It has two million subscribers on the continent.

Other more recent players also include China’s Startimes in Nigeria, Kenya’s Wananchi Zuku, Tanzania’s Bakhresa Azam as well as the US giant Fox Sports, which recently set up subsidiary, Fox Sport Africa.

SuperSports still dominates African sports broadcasting, but things are changing and the South African giants has already suffered from consumer base erosion in recent years. Whoever buys Multichoice will get scale via an established player, but competition in the sector is increasing and the company will find itself coming under increasing pressure from the likes of the above companies. With more players competing than ever before, the real fight for Africa’s sports content is just kicking off.

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