Neymar’s uncertain future and EPL market dominance: Are expensive Ligue 1 rights good for Kwese?

After losing out on the English Premier League rights that have been retained by SuperSport until 2022, Kwese Sports has now gotten itself a good catch, the French Ligue 1.

It was announced this week that the new broadcaster claimed the rights to screen the French top division for English and Portuguese language, Sub-Saharan Africa, while Canal Plus Afrique secured the rights for French-speaking Africa from the 2018/19 to 2023/24 season.

This means that the Anglophone Africa rights for five of the biggest European leagues are now split among three players – SuperSport (EPL & La Liga), StarTimes (Bundesliga and Serie A) and Kwese.

Latest entrants into the market, Kwese can count on the popularity and increasing notoriety of Brazilian star Neymar to sell more decoders. Since moving to PSG from Barcelona in the summer of 2017 for a world record transfer fee of 222m euros, the Ligue 1has become a lot more popular with news about the Brazilian regularly hitting the headlines worldwide.

In a Twitter poll that I conducted after his move last year, 26% of respondents said that they would buy a StarTimes (who hold the Ligue 1 rights till the end of the season) decoder in order to watch the Brazilian play. But one wonders why StarTimes is letting go of the rights – were they outbid? This is most likely the situation as Sportcal reported that the Ligue 1 rights tripled in value from 12m euros to 35m euros per year during this recent round of bidding.

There is undoubtedly a high number of young people that love Neymar. I got wind of it when my 15-year-old niece told me that she had a crush on him, just like many other girls in her class.

But the decision to buy new decoders for homes is not made by teenage boys and girls even though they can influence what parents do. Still, it shows that there is an opportunity for Kwese to ride on the fact that they will have Neymar to themselves next season.

However, one dilemma that plan could face is that no one knows how much longer the Brazilian would be at PSG with rumours about a potential move to Real Madrid filling the media space in recent weeks.

Nevertheless, this move earns Kwese a big pat on the back as they continue in their strides to become a big player in the African sport TV market. But can they monetise it to get a return on their investments in a market dominated by the allure of the English Premier League? They will need to get creative in marketing the rights and getting the audience to watch it.

They already have rights to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, the next four Olympic Games (Winter and Summer) as well as the NBA. They also have free-to-air rights for the English Premier League that enables them to show one match every weekend.

It’s not bad for a company that started operations less than three years ago.

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