In this piece, I attempt to proffer some solutions to the problems and how Nigerian sport can make use of some of the available digital tools to grow.
Despite the many challenges faced by the Nigerian sports industry in 2018, the year 2019 offers yet another opportunity to try to become bigger and more impactful economically.
The growth of digital technologies has changed the face of the traditional television model worldwide.
Video streaming, video-on-demand (VOD) and over-the-top (OTT) technology are allowing many content creators to bypass traditional TV and to reach the consumers directly on their smart TVs, computers and mobile phones.
The growth of platforms like Netflix and ROK has shown that traditional TV will become outmoded in the not too distant future. For sports, new entrants like DAZN are changing the game entirely.
The OTT platform is buying up sports broadcast rights at a rate that is alarming to traditional broadcasters.
It is changing the dynamics of sports content and by the time it reaches the African market, traditional sports broadcasters will find it hard to challenge.
The OTT model is an opportunity for Nigerian sports properties to explore in order to distribute their content across wider boundaries.
While it is true that many sports events in Nigeria are hardly filmed for content due to many reasons that can range from the high cost of production as well as the pay-to-screen model of traditional broadcasters, digital technology can help sports property owners eliminate some of the cost of traditional TV.
The fact is that TV has been important to the growth of sports events and athletes over the years. Nigerian sport has struggled to make an impact because it has ignored this model.
Traditional TV has not been able to help because owners have preferred to use cheaper imported sports content instead of working with local sports rights owners to produce and grow their content.
The time is ripe for Nigerian sports event owners to take the big step of financing the production of their events and then finding digital platforms to distribute.
There are free platforms that include Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, among others, that can work in growing their events. With painstaking effort, they can eventually turn around the fortunes of their sports.
The next question is how to monetise the content. Across the world, several sports federations are using OTT and digital subscription to shore up income.
Several international federations (Ifs) now own online TV channels where fans can watch competitions on their PCs and mobile phones.
During the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Spain, FIBA charged $5.99 (2,150 Naira) monthly per subscriber on its Live Basketball TV to stream the games.
FIBA also produces game highlights and behind-the-scenes content for its YouTube channel.
The online TV model is also used by FINA, the swimming federation where subscribers pay 39.99 euros (16,435 Naira) for annual access to all the swimming events under its purview.
This money goes directly to the purse of the federation after deducting production costs.
While the Nigeria Football Federation’s attempt to live-stream the March 2017 international friendly against Senegal failed despite huge interest from Super Eagles fans around the world, there is room to try again seeing as streaming technology has improved.
Fans were charged 500 Naira for that game that did not see the light of day.
Across the country, TV and radio stations, as well as churches, are regularly live-streaming their broadcasts and church services, the Nigerian sports industry must find a way to make digital technology work for it in 2019.
The growth of Nigerian sports will also be affected by digital marketing. Organisations like Google are increasingly determining what kind of news we receive on our mobile phones every day.
While the kind of content one receives is tailored to one’s interest, it is important that Nigerian sports events make use of this technology to ensure they can be seen by more people.
Every morning, Google puts the top sports news items from the clubs and events that I follow on the app dashboard.
During the 2018 World Cup, Google ensured that all the games were easily accessible to users.
Many Nigerian mobile phone users were inundated with news and match fixtures, highlights and more via Google. This could be an important avenue for growing local sports events.
From what I have observed, many Nigerian sports property owners do not understand the content part of their events. They are satisfied to promote events, stage it and ask journalists to cover for news. The place of content is still usually overlooked.
2019 is an opportunity to ensure that events are milked for their content that can be promoted via digital channels with an eye on monetisation for good returns on investment.