Uncertainty Looms Over AFCON Telecast to Nigeria as NBC Blocks Startimes’ Pan-African Bid

In the lead-up to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the regulatory body for television broadcast in Nigeria, has challenged an alleged broadcasting code violation by Startimes, a Pan-African pay TV broadcaster.

This leaves Nigerian football enthusiasts in a potential blackout, leaving them in suspense on how they will watch the much-anticipated CAF football tournament.

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), established in 1992, holds the responsibility of regulating and controlling the broadcast industry in Nigeria. The Director-General, Charles Ebuebu, has written to regional rights holders, New World Televisions S.A (NWTV), and the Confederation of African Football (CAF), expressing critical concerns regarding possible breaches of the NBC Code related to the broadcast rights for AFCON 2023.

The memo highlights the prohibition of the practice of international rights being “bundled” in a way that adversely affects the transmission and availability of rights in Nigeria. “Bundling” refers to the sale of rights on a multi-territory or continental basis rather than a national one, prioritizing multinational interests over national ones.

Startimes, insisting on Pan-African rights to serve markets outside Nigeria, has caused delays in finalizing NWTV/CAF’s exclusive award of Free-To-Air (FTA) rights. FTA allows every fan to access the games for free. This delay hampers efforts by local sports broadcasters, who won the bidding process, to secure necessary broadcast sponsorship to cover the event’s rights’ cost.

The NBC, expressing displeasure and raising concerns about potential code violations, warns of an imminent possibility of a blackout in Nigeria unless the issues raised are given expedited consideration. A spokesperson for NBC stated, “We are troubled that, with four days until one of the most eagerly awaited TV events of 2024, there is the possibility of no coverage for millions of football fans of the Super Eagles.”

The spokesperson further emphasized concerns that the situation may be a result of interests overriding those of Nigerian broadcasters and fans, a stance the NBC is not prepared to accept passively.

Recall that It was announced last week that Multichoice won’t be showing the African Cup of Nations on their Supersports channel. This decision was met with disappointment from sports fans across Africa.

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