When the return of the Ghana Premier League was announced, most Ghanaians were hoping for a fresh start. The Ghana Football Association (GFA) has also undergone its own bout of rebranding. New President Kurt Okraku and his ‘fresh’ executives have already started on a positive note. Regardless of the actual results on the field, their #BringBackTheLove campaign has been a relative success, become the reference phrase for all things football in Ghana.
However, all that goodwill threatens to be blown apart as the FA, GBC and StarTimes tussle over the TV rights to the fledgeling Ghana Premier League season.
Here’s a breakdown of the story so far:
GFA Broadcast rights up for grabs
The GFA asked companies interested in broadcasting the Ghana Premier League on TV to bid for the rights. These rights had become available after the FA cancelled an original deal signed between the previous administration and Chinese paid-broadcaster, Startimes.
That deal basically handled the entire broadcasting rights for the league to StarTimes, giving them unrestricted control of the league’s public broadcasts. In a bid to prevent this, the new GFA administration are offering the radio broadcast rights to the league for free while asking interested companies to bid for the TV rights.
Bidding war begins, StarTimes stands tall
Early bids were submitted by interested companies including the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) and, of course, StarTimes. A number of other unnamed companies are also rumoured to have submitted bids. SuperSport expressed tentative interest but ultimately did not bid for the rights. GBC, as we now know, submitted an initial bid for the exclusive Media Rights, Digital Rights and Radio Rights for the for 4 years at a proposed fee of GHc8,800,000 (GHc 2,200.000 per season). This bid and their second bid of GH 10,200,000 (GH 2,550.000 per season) and a fee of GH 200,000 for radio (GH 50,000 per season) were both deemed inadequate by the GFA. The GFA eventually awarded the exclusive TV rights for the league to StarTimes who offered to pay $5,250,000.00 for five years.
GBC cries foul
The GBC believed that their bid was superior, describing the decision as “unjust and unfair”. The StarTimes deal works out to an amount of $1,050,000 a year for the five years. GBC say their deal was bigger and amounted to US$ 1,100,000 yearly. The GBC also took a jab at the GFA’s #BringBackTheLove campaign suggesting that the local competitions should have been treated like national treasures and hence, given to the state broadcaster.
“Apart from GBC’s superior financial offer, we thought that the Premier League and FA Cup content would have been treated like a national treasure and given to the national broadcaster and a consortium of local broadcasters.
“GBC wishes to put it on public record that the national broadcaster and the local TV Consortium have been treated unfairly and unjustly.”
The GBC also pointed to its Free-To-Air capabilities as a major reason it should have been given the deal as StarTimes’ paid-for broadcasts might not greatly aid the GFA’s mass appeal plans for the local League.
The GFA issued a swift response to the GBC accusing them of spreading “deliberate misinformation” about the deal. Apart from the GFA’s view that the first two bids from GBC were not adequate enough, the next two bids (which came after the deadline had passed), including a demand for a (30%) share of Title Sponsorship if the GFA secured one were also deemed unacceptable by the GFA.
“It must be stated clearly that even if only financials alone were considered, the 4th bid of GBC (which was out of time) was not the bid with the highest financial consideration. Two other proposals were higher than the GBC bids but other conditions (due diligence) affected those bids.”
The GFA also said it was making the highlights show for the league “non-exclusive for the benefit of all television stations” in order to ensure greater consumption of local football on a wide-scale.
‘We’re ready to thrill’
StarTimes appear unfazed by the discussions that are going on around them. At a press conference on Friday, the Chinese pay-TV company promised the biggest-ever coverage of the local league, with 38 games to be shown on TV in the first round of the league alone, with one match available for Free To Air broadcast each match week.
“StarTimes expects an audience of over 30 million viewers across our platforms consisting of 13million Tv subscribers and 18+ million app users.
“StarTimes will invest an additional $1,000,000 on production and $500,000 on promotion of the properties.
The GBC were hoping to back the GFA into a corner with their statement, and earn public sympathy, which they did, initially. The GFA’s very swift statement, however, was perfectly-timed and put the GFA back into the driver’s seat. The StarTimes deal, while perhaps lengthier than it should have been, does seem like the best deal. StartTmes’ equally timely press conference to announce their (pretty exciting) plans for the league has certainly ramped up support for them being awarded the rights deal. GBC might have reach in Ghana, but StarTimes offers a continental platform. Given Ghana’s constant claim to being the best footballing nation in Africa, it might perhaps be time to finally show it.