Ethiopia's Beautiful Game Goes Global With DSTV

Ethiopia’s Beautiful Game Goes Global With DSTV

Deal Boosts League but Challenges Remain

For the past few years, the Ethiopian Premier League has received coverage on Africa’s largest direct broadcast satellite service, DSTV. This coverage has been instrumental in helping Ethiopian players gain attention and exposure on the international stage. Additionally, fans have had the opportunity to follow their favourite teams closely. The coverage has also provided journalists with valuable experience in covering live games. However, despite this deal’s numerous benefits, some believe the league company needed to fully capitalize on the opportunities presented. In a detailed analysis, EBR’s Dr. Brook Genene examines the impact of DSTV’s coverage of the Ethiopian Premier League and the challenges faced by the league company.

Estifanos Zelalem is a devoted fan of Ethiopia Bunna, and his support for the club began during their triumphant title-winning season in 2010/11. “I vividly recall watching the game against Muger Cement live on ETV,” he shared with EBR.

He rates his experience with DSTV as 9 out of 10, emphasizing that the recent coverage has been outstanding. He appreciates the opportunity to witness matches involving various teams apart from Bunna and Saint George. “I appreciate the fact that DSTV took a mid-season broadcasting break. It ensures that the crucial final match days of the season will be televised,” he explains.

Estifanos has fond memories of an ETV programme, Ethio League, which was his primary source of information about the Ethiopian Premier League before Super Sport became his other option. From that time, he remembers one of the presenters, Mandefro Tadesse, explicitly reflecting on his early passion for Ethiopian football. However, he now enjoys listening to the current broadcasters on Super Sport. Estifanos highly praises Seid Kiar, a veteran sports journalist, as a great broadcaster and admires Yonas Azeze for keeping the competition alive.

In 2020, DSTV secured the rights to broadcast the Ethiopian Premier League, marking a significant milestone in Ethiopian football. Before this, the league had not been broadcast live for many years, resulting in limited access to games for both journalists and fans. Only those fans who could travel to regional towns could watch the games, while most others were restricted to following the results in news briefings. Over time, regional TV stations began broadcasting a few live games in some instances and recording the games for later transmissions. For example, Tigray TV aired games of Mekelle Seba Enderta and Wolwalo Adigrat. At the same time, Amhara TV was responsible for showing the games of Fasil Kenema, Bahir Dar Kenema, and Woldia Kenema.

The Ethiopian Football Federation had consistently expressed dissatisfaction with the previous broadcast practices, mainly due to the absence of signed contracts governing the arrangement. As a result, a consistent schedule for showing the games needs to be improved. Furthermore, the quality of the broadcasts was subpar.

However, these setbacks were resolved when DSTV agreed to broadcast Ethiopian Premier League games in September 2020. Experts in the field described DSTV’s financial and investment package as staggering and too good to refuse.

In total, DSTV provided a financial package amounting to 68 million dollars. The Broadcasting Rights alone cost 22 million dollars for five years. An additional 24 million dollars were allocated for investment, encompassing production, airtime, satellite value training, and other related expenses. The naming rights were valued at 22 million dollars.

Lizaniwos  Getu, a 26-year-old football fan, expresses his delight in watching the Ethiopian Premier League with his family. He particularly enjoys the interviews and analysis provided during the broadcasts, as they help him gain better insights into the players.

Haileegziabher Adhanom, a senior producer and sports analyst at Super Sport channels, highlights the significance of showcasing Ethiopian culture and history through the coverage. He emphasizes that they have played a crucial role in introducing the players to the outside world.

Haileegziabher was involved early when DSTV established an Amharic commentary team. The process unfolded swiftly due to the team’s willingness and enthusiasm. In 2019, DSTV successfully formed an Amharic commentary team, selecting experienced journalists. These journalists travelled to South Africa to initiate the broadcasting of European leagues.

Among Sub-Saharan African countries, the Ethiopian Premier League became only the third league to have live coverage on DSTV, following South Africa and Zambia. The deal’s unexpected nature surprised many football spectators who didn’t anticipate DSTV investing heavily in Ethiopian football. Ethiopia, traditionally known for its prowess in athletics rather than football, became an intriguing market due to its predominantly young population, attracting broadcasters.

Haileegziabher explains that this type of TV production was relatively new to Ethiopia. He mentions that most of the team initially needed more TV production experience. However, he proudly states that most responsibilities are now handled by Ethiopians, which he considers a remarkable achievement.

Following DSTV’s initiation of broadcasting the Ethiopian Premier League in 2020, Canal+ entered the market a few months later. The French-owned TV Company introduced programmes in local languages, including sports content. Canal+ Ethiopia secured rights to broadcast popular leagues such as the German Bundesliga, French Ligue 1, NBA, and Saudi Pro League. Additionally, they expanded their coverage to include motorsports and boxing, providing commentary in Amharic.

The broadcast rights landscape in Africa has witnessed intriguing developments in recent times. Canal+ has increased its shareholding in MultiChoice, the parent company of DSTV, from 35% to 40.01%. Furthermore, discussions are underway for Canal+ to acquire the South African company, as they have submitted a substantial bid of 2.9 billion dollars for the takeover.

According to Bloomberg, South African billionaire Dr Patrice Motsepe is reportedly discussing joining Canal+’s multibillion-dollar bid. Including South Africa’s wealthiest black individual in the deal is seen as potentially aiding Canal+ in meeting the country’s strict black ownership requirements. Other media outlets have also reported that if the deal goes through, Dr Motsepe may need to step down from his position as president of CAF due to potential conflicts of interest.

African markets are considered to be home to the world’s fastest-growing and youngest population. This demographic factor serves as a driving force for broadcasters seeking to acquire sports broadcasting rights. The coverage of the Ethiopian Premier League is a testament to this trend. However, the implications of a possible acquisition of DSTV by Canal+ in the Ethiopian Premier League remain unclear.

While the experience of watching the Ethiopian Premier League has generally been buoyant, it has been challenging. Lizinawork points out that the lack of discipline displayed by players and specific coaches has been a notable downside. He mentions explicitly their unfavourable reactions when receiving cards.

The DSTV deal has provided the clubs a larger platform to promote their product and generate profits. However, the Premier League Share company has faced criticism for needing to capitalize on this opportunity entirely. Following the conclusion of the naming rights agreement with Betking, the league currently lacks a naming partner. Despite ongoing discussions about a potential partnership with a financial entity, concrete results have yet to emerge thus far. Given the clubs’ economic difficulties, concerns about the league’s future loom.

Despite the availability of televised games, many fans, including Estifanos, express their desire to watch matches in stadiums. Estifanos shares his disappointment, mentioning that he was planning to attend a game at Addis Ababa Stadium, but the league was suspended due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. When some games eventually resumed at Addis Ababa Stadium, Estifanos faced another hurdle: he couldn’t purchase tickets through mobile banking, which he couldn’t access at the time as he was only 17 years old.

The Ethiopian Premier League Share Company has announced that the final three match days of this season’s Premier League will be held at Addis Ababa Stadium. This historic stadium has undergone renovation over the past couple of years. It recently hosted a friendly match between the Ethiopian national team and Lesotho, generating excitement among fans eager to experience the matchday atmosphere, banter, and camaraderie at Addis Ababa Stadium. Despite the broad reach of DSTV throughout the country, fans still yearn for the in-person experience of attending matches. EBR


12th Year  May 2024  No. 129

Brook Genene

Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Ethiopian Business Review (EBR). He can be reached at brook.genene@ethiopianbusinessreview.net


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