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Millions in Africa Unable to Watch English Premier League
Broadcasting rights offered to a company that's yet to roll out its services to the entire region
Daniel Mosobo Kapsoot (Mosobo)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2007-08-22 11:22 (KST)   
Millions of English premier league fans in most sub-Saharan African countries will not be able to watch English premier league matches following a decision by the league to offer coverage rights to a new company.

A United Kingdom based company called GTV has bought the rights to screen 80 percent of the matches across the continent, and yet the company has only rolled out its service in five Sub-Saharan African countries. The company says its coverage is currently available in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana and Mauritius and is proceeding with a phased roll-out across sub-Saharan Africa. This includes some countries in French-speaking parts of West Africa, where their mostly English-language content will be supplemented with French-language channels.

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The GTV service is provided by Gateway Broadcast Services (GBS), a subsidiary of Gateway Communications. A press release by the company says GTV is currently rolling out a new, more affordable pay-TV service across Africa. This service includes 80 per cent of all Barclays Premier League matches for 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This includes up to 8 live matches per week on G-Sports 1 and 2. All the top matches influencing the top of the table, relegation and European competition qualification are included.

The firm also says on its website that it has launches planned for Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe over the next couple of months. Expansion to cover Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Francophone countries by the end of the year while Coverage of the whole of sub-Saharan Africa by mid 2008.

Before the entry of GTV, the English premiere league rights to broadcast were owned by the satellite broadcaster MultiChoice Africa, through its brand, Dstv. GTV outbid MultiChoice for the League셲 soccer matches. GTV was launched in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania as well as Rwanda and Burundi in June 2007. This means fans outside these countries and who were used to watching games on DStv at home or in sports bars are now only able to watch 20 percent of this season's games, except in South Africa and Nigeria where DStv still has a majority.

The English premier league which is now in its third week this season, has gained fanatical following in Africa because in recent times, there has been an influx of African players in to the league. The International Herald Tribune quotes Julian McIntyre president of Gateway Communications saying 쏶ecuring the rights to 80 percent of Premier League matches was a significant step because the league has a large following in Africa, where African-born players like Didier Drogba and Michael Essien of Chelsea and Kolo Toure of Arsenal are household names. He added that their goal is to reach 250,000 subscribers by the end of next year, and one million within three or four years.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), A group of English Premier League fanatics in Zimbabwe is intending to file an urgent high court application to compel DStv to cover matches as in previous seasons and that they also plan to petition the English Premier League to review their television rights. In Namibia, The Namibian newspaper reports that thousands of Namibian football fans have been left frustrated after DStv failed to screen most of the English Premier League matches on its channels.

GTV's top package is priced at about $40 a month, compared with about $70 for MultiChoice's premium plan, which includes broadcasts of the 20 percent of Premier League matches not shown by GTV. Outside South Africa, MultiChoice has 1.3 million customers.

It should be noted that due to poverty levels in the region, pay TV has primarily been affordable only to a small elite in Sub-Saharan Africa. Millions of football fans however congregate in venues such as hotels, sports bars and restaurants to watch EPL matches. The establishments screen the matches in order to entice customers; some establishments are even known to charge small fees so that fans can watch the matches on their TV screens. The decision to offer majority rights to GTV therefore means that before the company can widen it coverage in the region, Africans who are interested in watching all the matches will have to subscribe to both MultiChoice and GTV.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Daniel Mosobo Kapsoot

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