The legal and commercial implications of the new broadcast deal of the Nigeria Professional Football League.

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Photo source : Law Bureau

Throughout the world, live coverage of major football and sports games has become one of the most popular forms of television broadcast and has become a veritable source of revenue for the broadcast rights holders, the Sporting Federations and the individual teams.

Before the launch of major TV platforms, the rights to major national and international competitions belonged to the National free to air broadcasters individually or collectively.

Unfortunately, the lack of proper regulation in this area in Nigeria ensured there were no definitive provisions on how these rights were distributed.

For years the Nigerian football league was plagued by issues revolving around the broadcast of matches in the domestic football league. Not even the nation’s state-owned broadcast outfit, the Nigeria Television Authority could broadcast domestic football games.

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In September 2017, however, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) signed a broadcast partnership deal with the League Management Company (LMC) which required the engagement of a privately owned company that would leverage on the broadcast equipment and capacity of the NTA to beam select matches of the NPFL live to the viewing audience.

Photo source : NPFL

Why further details of this deal especially the identity of the privately-owned company was never made known are unclear. Even more disturbing is what eventually became of this deal. In any event, it was clear that whatever broadcast arrangement the LMC had was below the commercial target set for the league.

However, subsequent developments showed that the private company referenced in the botched NTA deal may have been none other than South Africa owned cable television providers, DSTV. Again, details of the deal were very sketchy as neither party divulged any further details.

Interestingly, the cable television company unilaterally terminated the contract alleging breach of contract by the LMC. Feelers from both camps indicate that the arrangement may have collapsed due largely to the exchange rate which saw the naira falling.

Besides, unconfirmed reports indicate that DSTV wanted an exclusive broadcast deal that the LMC failed to respect. At any rate, these reports were unconfirmed. The termination of the broadcast deal, however, plunged the league into another period of uncertainty with dire commercial implications.

The thrust of this article is to examine the commercial and legal implications of this deal. We shall also endeavour to engage in a comparative analysis of this deal with some major broadcast deals in Spain, England, and Germany and suggest ways through which the commercial value of the deal can be enhanced.

However, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel on this issue following the announcement by the Nigerian Premier Football League regulatory body, the League Management Company (LMC) of the successful execution of a television broadcast rights deal with Chinese Broadcast giants, Next TV worth over $225,000,000.00 (Two Hundred and Twenty-Five Million Dollars) for a period of 5 years i.e., 2019 – 2024.

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This deal is coming on the heels of widespread criticism by avid followers of the league who have questioned the commercial intentions of the LMC. As expected, this development has received mixed reactions from fans, analysts and other stakeholders in the league.

It is pertinent to start this discourse with a comparative analysis of the major broadcast deals in England and Spain. The value of the Premier League’s overseas broadcasting rights for the 2019-22 league season rose to 35 percent; reaching an all-time record of £4.35 billion, ensuring that the League’s overall rights have gone up despite a fall in the value of the domestic market.

These figures were by no means achieved overnight. The UK has through technological innovations and regulations maximized the revenue generated from awarding broadcast rights to the mainstream media.

In the Bundesliga, for instance, commitments were offered that divided rights into separate packages for internet, TV and Mobile broadcasting. This system has been replicated in Spain, England and Italy and even some South American countries.

The rights were to be disposed of by a public tendering process and rights contracts were not to exceed three years. Similarly, the FA Premier League in England bifurcated broadcast rights into packages for mobile, internet and radio, in addition to a rule against exclusivity.

The increase in foreign rights, revealed in new figures from Sport Business Media, is slightly more than Premier League insiders had envisaged, and shows that 46 percent of all the League’s broadcasting revenue now comes from overseas.

The deals cement the Premier League’s position as earning more money from overseas broadcasting than any other sports league in the world. However, this is just a part of the story

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