‘I ‘d have been happier if Afcon matches are on national TV’
LAGOS (AFP) – Nigeria’s Super Eagles are surging towards the African Cup of Nations final and the football-mad nation is watching closely, but this year, seeing the action on TV has proved tougher than normal for most.
Following a dispute over licensing fees, no Nigerian broadcaster secured the rights to show the 2013 tournament, so those who want to see Nigeria take on Mali in Wednesday’s semi-final will have to either get a satellite dish or go to a venue which has one.
“I would have been happier if the matches are shown on (national broadcaster) NTA where I can watch it with my friends and relations without paying a dime,” said Abu Mohammed, 32, a fruit-seller in Lagos’s Obalende market.
Instead, residents of the continent’s most populous nation head to outdoor bars with satellite TV access — called “viewing centres” — to watch the matches being played in South Africa on big screens.
The Confederation of African Football’s chief, Hicham El Amrani, recently reportedly told journalists in South Africa that Nigerian broadcasters offered a bid which was far too low and CAF had to reject it.
The Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), an umbrella body that bid for the rights, reacted to that charge on Tuesday, insisting that the middlemen it was forced to negotiate with demanded an unrealistic price from networks.
“Has football now become a board room affair in Africa, rather than the interest of the people?” BON chief Segun Olaleye said in statement.
“Why is it that CAF deals with middlemen rather than media owners?” he said, criticising Amrani for discussing the dispute publicly without speaking directly with BON.
“He has never called me. He has never called anybody,” Olaleye told AFP, also rejecting reports that BON only bid $1.5 million (1.1 million euros) to broadcast AFCON.
Media firm LC2 holds the broadcast rights for the 2013 tournament and was authorised to negotiate individual TV and radio deals across Africa.
According to Olaleye, LC2 in November insisted on a price of six million euros, then on January 14, five days before the first match, dropped their price to 4.5 million euros at a meeting with BON in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.
At the meeting, BON upped its bid to $3.5 million, but LC2 rejected the offer, Olaleye said.
LC2 was free to negotiate with other Nigerian firms, he added, suggesting that if 4.5 million euros was a feasible price, another partner might have emerged.
Contacted by AFP, Redouane Amraoui of LC2 declined to comment.
Mohammed, the market fruit-seller, said he knew little about these failed negotiations, except that they have forced him to spend 100 naira ($0.63) per match to enter a so-called viewing centre with a satellite link.
“I will be there tomorrow,” he said of the contest against Mali, which comes after Nigeria secured a shocking upset against powerhouse Ivory Coast in Sunday’s quarter-final.
But if Nigeria wins on Wednesday and earns a chance to take its first African cup since 1994, there is a chance that Mohammed will be able to watch Sunday’s final at home.
“We are talking to (LC2) today,” Olaleye said when asked if BON could secure the broadcast rights for just the championship match. “Definitely, it’s possible.”