Live Football Show: A Business Boomer for Restaurants, Others

In a late Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, at Mesale Café, Bar, Restaurant and Lounge, a high-toned place around Bole Medhanealem in Addis Ababa, several people were watching a football game transmitted through the DSTV Super Sport channel. Emotions were high as the game transmitted live was between the defending champions Manchester United, a club that has huge fans in Ethiopia, and one of the strongest English Premier League (EPL) outfits Totenham Hotspur from the White Hart Lane. There were 15 LCD televisions at every corner and a big screen in the main lounge. Every seat including the hallway and the corners and even the inside of the balcony was full. Tables were overflowing with bottles of beers and soft drinks. A considerable number of men were also guzzling high alcoholic content liquors including whiskies. 

In a thrilling game that ended in draws, when Wayne Rooney, forward player of Manchester United, responded for every goal conceived, the excitement of the fans went up and the drinks were ordered one after the other. The waiters (they are all boys) were very busy to the level they were even unable to watch the replay of the goals after the fans roar out of emotions. Most of the fans in the house support Manchester United in one hand and others were the loathers of the Red Devils. There are not many zealous fans for the Spurt in Ethiopia, one of the viewers told EBR. Rather many of the EPL football game watchers are fans of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. He himself is one of the loathers of the Red Devils for he supports the leader of the premier league, Arsenal, popularly known as “the Gunners”. 

In days when there are highly anticipated games like this one, the number of customers “almost doubles” says one of the waiters who requested anonymity as he is not authorized to talk about the business without the consent of his boss. “Even though we have loyal customers in other days, the number of customers and their consumption particularly beer, in days of big games noticeably increases.” He adds. “We also get better tips”. 

Kale’ab Ayele is one of the frequent customers at Mesale. “It is one of the nicest place I would like to spend my leisure times, particularly when there is a football game” he told EBR. “It is comfortable; the services is nice; and most of all I love watching the premier league games here.” he concluded. “I can guess that they have invested a lot of money and are providing high quality services to attract huge customers. But for me and my friends, the main reasons why we come here is the football games” he added. Although Mesale is a nice place to spend a leisure time, everything in the lounge seems expensive. Kale’ab shares this view. Nevertheless, football fanatic viewers flock to the bar every time big clubs have fixtures.

It is not only in high-toned places like Mesale that showing football matches on DSTV channels has become a trend, but cafés, restaurants and bars these days are also providing their customers with live broadcasted football games of the European countries leagues. In many places the football games are offered free of charge where as in some places customers are charged for watching the games despite consuming other services.

Assegid Zewde, in his small bar and restaurant, ‘Asse Bar and Restaurant’ at a ground floor in a condominium house in Gerji area in Addis Ababa, is very busy in the weekends serving his emotional customers whenever there is an expected football game. Every time when there are EPL games that engage the top teams or even other European country leagues and Champions League games between the top clubs, he prepares extra chairs for his customers. In addition to having several customers that drink bottled and draught beer, he charges each customer five or ten birr per seat depending on which clubs play and the significance of the game. “Though the money I collect for showing the games couldn’t cover the DSTV monthly payment of ETB 1,565, it helps to boost my other business” he told EBR. “My revenues are much better when there are football games than other days”. Assegid knows about businesses which show football games free of charge. “Such cafes and restaurants systematically add prices on the drinks and meals” he claims. “I choose to sell bottled and drought beers and other drinks with minimum ‘grocery’ prices and charge per seat while showing football” he concluded. 

These days, watching European Football Matches on weekends is considered as one source of entertainment by young people in Ethiopia. Not only in big cities like Addis Ababa, but also in regional towns a large number of youths consider watching football as favorite means of entertainment. That is why it has become common to find youths engaged in the business of showing football matches transmitted live through DSTV channels in remote areas such as in the Lake Tana Islands where electric power is not available. The youths provide the service through the aid of generators. 

According to information gathered from Multichoice Ethiopia, the viewership of the DSTV in Ethiopia has grown by an average 26Pct per annum in past four years.. High football sentiment has been at its peak in recent months as the National Team, popularly referred to as the Waliya Ibex (several media use the term Waliya Antelopes wrongly where as the unique species of the endemic animal in the high peaks of Semen Mountain, from which the name has been derived, is the Waliya Ibex), was able to participate in the African Cup of Nations Finals  after 31 years of absence and the breath taking matches it had for the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualification in which the team lost the spot to the Nigerian Super Eagles. During the season, business owners of cafés, restaurants and bars and even butcheries who have been approached by EBR reflected that it was a bonanza for them. 

A few years back football games on DSTV were shown mainly in football showing halls commonly known as “DSTV Houses”. They are usually made from iron sheets or plastic tents that the UNHCR provides for refugees to build temporary shelters. These days, in Addis Ababa the number of these kinds of places is decreasing. Many of the DSTV houses are closing because of the high increment of hall rents and the increase of DSTV monthly payments year by year as a result of foreign currency exchange rate variations. In Addition to this, the government’s demand of DSTV Houses to get licenses and the provision of the services in Youth Centers and other places made the competition stiff. This significantly affected the profitability of the business.

Growth of viewership of DSTV Channels in Ethiopia in PercentageBehailu Germew used to have one of the Football showing places around Shola, in the Yeka Sub-City of Addis Ababa. He learnt the business from his cousin around Shiromeda, in Gulele Subcity who started the business years before. It has been two years since he stopped showing football and rented the place for a metal workshop. He said, I now get more than double the money I used to get while showing football games. “Showing football has a lot of headache; but the benefit is not worth the effort” he said. Besides this, house rent and the fee to get the service from Multichoice Ethiopia has increase year by year” he adds. As a result, the business has become no more profitable. He concludes.

On the other hand several hotels, café and restaurants that show football matches of major European leagues on big screens are using the services to boast their sales. As a result, the business, as attested by the owners, has been booming.

2nd Year . December 2013 . No.10

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