The LMC and the NTA need to get the broadcast of the NPFL right

The domestic league will have a new broadcast company covering it when the season resumes on January 18, 2018.

The League Management Company signed a partnership agreement with national broadcaster NTA in September that will see both organisations create a joint venture company to produce and broadcast the Nigeria Professional Football League.

The deal will see the NTA bring its under-utilised Outside Broadcast (OB) vans into use for producing live matches and events of the NPFL when the 2018 season kicks off.

This agreement came on the heels of the end of the broadcast/production agreement with SuperSport who had been official broadcasters of the league for the last four seasons since signing a $34m deal in August 2013.

The league has grown its popularity through the broadcast of its matches. One of the biggest attractions for the NPFL came in March 2017 when a goal by Sikiru Olatunbosun of MFM FC went viral globally. The footage was created by SuperSport.

With the taking over of the broadcasting by the NTA, one is left with a lot of questions to ask.

Will we get a high-quality product that can stand among the best in the world?

Will their broadcast be able to grow the popularity of the domestic league?

Will the bureaucracy of the NTA not get in the way of creative output?

Well, some of these questions were answered with the first broadcast that came out of the NTA during the NPFL Super Six this December. In a game that I personally monitored on NTA between the Super Eagles and Enyimba FC, the signals failed to convince me that NTA was up to the task.

The reaction that trailed the game on social media showed that many Nigerians did not see the league performing well in the hands of the NTA. A second game was stopped abruptly in favour of a sponsored Christmas carol service with viewers told to tune into the NTA Sport channel on StarTimes in order to see the remainder.

There were no replays, the commentary was shoddy and it generally felt poor.

But a top LMC official told me via WhatsApp that the game was a practice for the NTA crew.

“It’s only a test run and training process for NTA. We are not using HD OB vans yet but the normal smaller OB van. The OB being used now is a 3-camera OB Van and we have experts on the ground working with NTA Guys to perfect their skills,” said the official.

He promised that there would be a better TV product when the season commences as they plan to work with a 10-camera HD OB vans.

One of the reasons why this arrangement with the NTA could be very good is that it allows the LMC the option to sell the content to different sport television rights holders in an increasingly growing market that now has StarTimes and Kwese TV as challengers of the SuperSport monopoly.

In October during their launch, I asked Joseph Hundah, CEO of Kwese TV, if they were interested in the NPFL. His response was that they were interested but that the LMC was playing it tough for them to get.

However, the quality of the content needs to be top-notch for any of the broadcasters to want to touch it as is.

How the NTA and the LMC solve this issue of quality would go a long way in how the fans receive it and the extra money that could come from interested rights holders.

Whatever happens, the quality must not fall below what the previous broadcasters provided.

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