SuperSport loses NBA Africa rights to Zimbabwe tycoon

Kwesé Sports, the pan-African sports television company owned by Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, has secured exclusive African broadcast rights for the US National Basketball Association (NBA) taking the battle for sports viewership in Kenya and the continent a notch higher.

The NBA confirmed that it has a new multi-year deal with Econet Media to show live games and other NBA programmes on Econet’s pay-TV, Internet and mobile platforms in sub-Saharan Africa beginning the 2016-17 season.

The founder of the telecoms conglomerate Econet set up and rolled out Kwesé Sports in Kenya and across the continent on mobile, Internet and satellite-based free-to-air platforms mid last year.

The Associated Press (AP) quoting the NBA said the deal makes Econet the NBA’s official broadcaster in sub-Saharan Africa and will offer viewers more than 500 games a year, “including the playoffs and finals.” The deal also includes WNBA games.

“I can tell you this is the largest partnership in the history of the NBA in Africa,” Amadou Gallo Fall, NBA vice president and managing director for Africa, was quoted saying in a media report by the AP.


The AP said in the report the move would see the NBA end its relationship with South Africa-based satellite TV broadcaster SuperSport. That contract expires at the end of this season.

The NBA did not disclose financial details or say exactly how long the Econet agreement was for.

The deal is a huge blow for SuperSport, a MultiChoice brand, as the NBA and other sports form a central part of its strategy of targeting sports-mad subscribers.

Several pay-TV firms have been seeking a slice of the Kenyan movie lovers’ pie. Econet Wireless’ online Kwese TV has been broadcasting select matches of the highly popular English Premier League football matches.

Under pressure from the pay-TV giants, MultiChoice Kenya’s DStv announced in October a subscription price cut from November 1.

MultiChoice, which bills its customers in dollars, said then it had reduced the bouquet prices by between five and 15 per cent “in response to customer needs and the current tough economic environment”.

News of the NBA deal was first announced last October.

ESPN, the US sports broadcast behemoth had earlier said it is banking on the NBA deal with Kwesé to expand its foothold in the African market.

“ESPN’s focus around the world is simple: to serve sports fans. This long-term collaboration across television and digital media will do just that — serve millions of sports fans across Africa with exceptional products, content and coverage,” said ESPN International  executive vice president and managing director Russell Wolff on October 31.

Mr Fall said distributing more content on mobile devices could also help the NBA’s reach in Africa.

“In Africa, a mobile device is the first screen for many,” Mr Fall said. “We really wanted to tap into the opportunity that space offers.”

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