It has been a tradition with MultiChoice to bring a Premier League legend to Nigeria to heighten the excitement of the football season. The trophy will be paraded in Lagos from October 25 to 29, and to make the exercise more exciting, the company has settled for former Super Eagles of Nigeria and Bolton of England legend, Austin Jay Jay Okocha to thrill football fans during the period. The General Manager, Supersport, Felix Awogu spoke on a number of issues during the week, including the choice of Okocha for the ceremony, impact of their broadcast rights with the EPL till 2022, idea behind the Let’s Play initiative and coverage of Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup. GOWON AKPODONOR was there.
What informed the decision by MultiChoice to use Austin Okocha as the face of the EPL Trophy tour of Nigeria?
First of all, let’s look at Lionel Messi. He has never won the World Cup, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo but I believe they are some of the greatest ambassadors of what football is all about today. If we were to bring the World Cup to Nigeria, these are the two players I am sure most people would have loved to see. Austin Okocha contributed a lot to the English Premier League before he left for Turkey. He brought a different dimension to football in England. His dribbling skills are today still revered in England, and they still talk about Jay Jay Okocha’s artistry on the football field. I think he is somebody who epitomises what football should be. He didn’t go for money, he went for entertainment and the fans till today, still see him as one of the greatest footballers that ever played for Bolton.
To us, he is not just a Nigerian; he was also the captain of the Nigerian national team and a man that has given a lot to football in this country and he is currently serving as the FA Chairman in Delta State. If there was any one, he is the man that we should look for to celebrate the Premier League.
How will the retention of broadcast rights to the Premier League till 2022 impact your business and what do you plan to do differently?
If you look at it, it is the biggest brand and the major driver in the business in the country. A lot of Nigerians probably know more about the Premier League than the English themselves. If I go on the streets of England and chat with the regular folks, I realise that more of our taxi drivers have better view of what the Premier League is all about. We are excited and it is indeed an honour to have such great property at MultiChoice till 2022. It is not just about that, it is about the fact that we are trying to make everyone, irrespective of your financial prowess, have the opportunity to see some of these matches and that is why a lot of times, we cascaded it to the lower bouquets.
Considering the rising adoption of the OTT offerings out there, how will this impact your business?
The beautiful thing about the Premier League is that it is well structured. We have the total rights and we deliver the entire matches, about 380 LIVE games to everybody. We also have our Catch Up services, which is unique to DStv and I do not believe any other provider offers such services. We are always ready and set to provide the best viewing experience to our viewing populace.
The online aspect is a growing phenomenon and DStv Now is going to be positioned for that. Most Nigerians have mobile phones, about 90 million mobile phone users and it is a great opportunity for people who want entertainment on the go and want to catch up on their programmes. DStv Now to me, will be the greatest innovation in the television industry in Nigeria and Africa.
Extension of La Liga matches to the lower bouquets as well as GOtv. What informed this decision and do you have plans to do same for the Champions league and FA Cup?
We pride ourselves as people who decide to go for the best and La Liga league is great. After the Premier League, La Liga is probably one of the biggest in terms of marketing and the way it is deployed. It is something we do all the time, which is, reviewing our content offering because we have principle of basically looking at our customers and their desires. The business has a principle called ‘The customer first approach’ and once we have all that sorted, we decide. There is also something we call ‘open week’ where we decide to run our premium channels across board and people sit at home and enjoy it.
The idea behind the Let’s Play initiative is to teach young children about sports and help them grow their potentials. What has been the impact of this initiative?
The Let’s Play Initiative is not only about the talent. If you look at the current situation in Nigeria, a lot of children are becoming obese and suffering illnesses that are typically for adults. The major objective of the initiative is to get children out and for them to play. In the last two years, we have reached over two to three million children in Nigeria because one of our driving philosophies is football. If you give out one soccer ball, it doesn’t stay with that person because you will have to engage other kids. That has been our strategy.
In the last six months, we have given out over 10,000 soccer balls to children in Nigeria. We have partnered with a couple of states like Ondo, Edo, Kwara, Lagos and Anambra States. The governor of Anambra State participated actively and he engaged with a lot of children and helped distribute soccer balls. It is something we are very proud of. If we can deliver and children are leaving their houses to come out and play, we will be helping to prevent a lot of health crisis.
If you identify some real talents in these children, do you have any plans to support their football career to ensure it does not end at the grassroots?
We are not a football club. We are a broadcast outfit and we bring in a couple of ex-internationals to support us and help us activate the initiative. So, if they find a talent, why not, but we will have to liaise with the parents of the child to see if they are willing to take the child to the next level or not but major focus is to get children playing again.
How do you plan to retain your customers, particularly those who subscribe to the lower bouquets, keeping in mind other pay TV players are offering more flexible payment plans and for the same value?
As far as flexible payments plans are concerned, we already have it. It is not new. For two times a year, you can decide to pause your subscription when you want to travel. But when you talk about flexibility, I do not really understand what people mean because of the way content is run. Content varies, be it GSM or telephone. It is a different ball game. You cannot say stop a soccer match for say 20 minutes and decide to continue next week. It is a huge investment and a lot of production put together to deliver on that content. It will be a great study because I have heard some claims from some organisation that it is possible but I must tell you, I have done a lot of research and I have not seen it anywhere else in the world. Perhaps Nigeria may become a case study for the developed nations. We will see.
On GOtv Boxing Night and others sports especially athletics
We brought a lot of revolution into our sporting family. When MultiChoice took up the Nigerian league, we did the league for 10 years. We put in our money and billions of naira was sunk into it. Aside from that, we trained a lot of Nigerians and gave them the opportunity to become some of the best broadcasters the world can offer. It was in Nigeria we started the Kenyan league; a crop of talented Nigerians who were trained in Nigeria started off the Kenyan league. We started the Ghanaian league and handed it over to the locals. This is something that is difficult to quantify.
When we came into the league, the Nigerian league was valued at N70 million but today, the value of the Nigerian league is in excess of N7 billion. That is the impact local television has with local football.
MultiChoice coverage of Russia 2018 World Cup
The world keeps changing. Now that we have qualified, it is now a different ball-game. If we had not qualified, it would have been hectic but now that we have, we will deploy every resource because I know Nigeria will do well. We have a generation of new players, with the right philosophy and the right state of mind. They are youthful and a few experienced ones. It is going to be a great tournament for us and the timing this time around is not like that of Rio, it is going to be perfect for Nigerians to sit back and enjoy the best of football. Supersport delivers the best content, which anybody can be proud of. We will be well prepared and I hope we do very well in Russia.