Recently it was announced that Nigeria’s leading sports marketing company, Integral Sponsorship and Experiential Marketing Limited had secured the media rights to broadcast a live English Premier League match per week on Free-To-Air television using the NTA network.
Following the announcement, Soccernet.ng sat down with the Managing Director of the company, Mr Abimbola Ilo, in an interview, where he responded to the criticisms surrounding the deal, the challenges in securing the rights and why they chose the NTA.
Soccernet: Congratulations on the deal you just signed, but what does Integral do?
AI: Integral is a sports marketing and management company, and that means we work across the whole value chain in sports business. So for instance, we work with media rights, we have a very strong corporate hospitality division, we do events (sports events), we work on sponsorships both for brands in terms of advising them on what to sponsor and also for rights owners in terms of how to package their rights to sell. We also have a strong talent management division, so we are looking after the careers of footballers, and track and field athletes.
You just signed a deal with the NTA to show the Premier League but why did you choose the Premier League?
AI: So just to put some context into it. The deal is actually firstly with Infront Sports and Media because Infront has the free to air television rights for the Premier League for the next three seasons up until the season 2021-2022.
The Premier League is the biggest, largest, most loved, most watched, most lucrative, most exciting – all the superlatives – league in the world. And we know that this is a product loved by Nigerians.
So the idea obviously, because it’s free to air, is to do a collaborative partnership with the largest distribution network in Nigeria which is by far the NTA.
And so we thought that it is a good meeting of minds. Infront wanting a technical partner in Nigeria which is us and we have then on-boarded those rights unto the NTA.
So we are basically guaranteeing now for over the next three seasons as I said up until 2021-2022 for you to have the best of the Premier League on the NTA.
What’s the worth of the sub-license deal from Infront?
AI: You know that I can’t talk about that. Those are things in the contract that are confidential. But we have I think a reasonable partnership with Infront and looking for the right partner as I said in the Territory. We were looking for the rights owner and the right properties, but no I can’t disclose the financials.
How do you plan to monetise the rights and what is the reaction from corporate Nigeria so far?
AI: So far so good, we are very enthused because of course, it creates an opportunity for the majority of Nigerians to get to watch the Premier League.
So brands have been very interested to see and find out what are the opportunities to partner in terms of on-screen broadcast sponsorship and advertising.
And that’s basically the revenue monetization module as well as for us to partner with brands that have marketing budgets.
There has been criticism from Nigerians over this partnership. Many Nigerians feel the NPFL should have been the league to cover. What do you have to say concerning this and is there any plan to enter an agreement with the LMC in the nearest future?
AI: I think there’s always an end game and I think like most endeavours, what is unfolding is that we are just doing it step by step.
Firstly let’s understand as I said earlier, it is uncontested globally that the Premier League is by far and away the most loved, the most lucrative, all the superlatives that I spoke about.
And that’s a good thing because it then gives us where we are heading and what we can do. I think it is a different discussion to say and I honestly think there’s a lack of understanding to say we should have started with the NPFL.
I think we can obviously get to that point. The NPFL has its own attractiveness, its own fans and I think that’s more of a discussion with NTA perspective than Integral perspective.
Do you have plans to delve into other sports like the NBA and Tennis?
AI: Yes as I said, we will take it one step at a time. Definitely there is an end game and definitely we want to be right in the centre of bringing the most loved sports in Nigeria and globally to free to air television because I think that’s where the massive eyeballs still are. So the simple answer to your question is yes, but step by step.
What obstacles did you face in acquiring the free to air rights and what challenges do you foresee?
AI: So the first obstacle is that the free to air market space in Nigeria and in Africa, in general, has been very topsy-turvy. So it’s a lot of ups and downs.
You are probably aware that the previous rights holder had even gone into administration. So you can imagine the amount of things that then needed to be straightened out just going into this new rights cycle.
And I think also one of the major challenges was literally understanding the landscape locally to be able to deliver properly an international standard quality product.
Do you see this partnership continuing after the current deal expires in 2022?
AI: I think it’s very early days, we’ve literally just announced a week ago. Ideally, yes because I think there’s definitely a space and future for free to air television on the continent, in Nigeria as I said in particular.
I think part of what we will like to do is see a mix of more content from the Premier League and those conversation are ongoing, but so far so good, it’s something that we’ll definitely want to do for the long term.