The English Premier League, one of the most popular club soccer competitions in the world, has struck a broadcasting rights agreement with Econet Media, owned by Zimbabwean telecoms tycoon Strive Masiyiwa. The new deal will make games available on a free-to-air basis for fans across sub-Saharan Africa.
The three-year agreement will start during the 2016-17 season and run through to 2019. Econet’s Kwesé Sports will air a live match every Saturday afternoon for subscription-free views in 50 African countries. The rights also gives the channel access to preview shows and post-match highlights programming.
“Premier League clubs enjoy passionate support across sub-Saharan Africa and these rights are important to ensuring that as many fans as possible can follow and enjoy our competition,” Richard Scudamore, the executive chairman of the Premier League, said in a statement.
Africa represents one of the fastest growing fan-bases for the English-based club competition, helped by the success of players from the continent, such as Leicester City’s Algerian player, Riyad Mahrez, and Manchester City’s Ivorian midfielder, Yaya Toure. This move will definitely help to grow this audience, which was at 260 million last season.
Currently, South Africa’s pay-TV provider, Multichoice, owns the broadcasting rights for the league in Africa. It paid £296 ($428) million for the rights to broadcast the league for the 2016-19 seasons. And their offering through Supersport, the platform that shows the matches, costs a minimum subscription fee of $40 a month for a limited number of games every week, and can go up to as much as $100 for full access.
But the arrival of Kwesé TV, which launched only last December could start to challenge the near monopoly that Multichoice has enjoyed in this space. And competing for the football audience across the continent is one way of trying to eat into the Naspers-owned company’s market share.
“We want to make this league available to fans across sub-Saharan Africa,” Joseph Hundah, the CEO of Econet media, said. “We hope to widen access to this property.”