…Marketing Director of StarTimes, Oludare Kafar says pay television station is appreciative of Nigerians’ patronage during the concluded German Bundesliga season. He also speaks on innovations ahead the coming season as well as the 2016 COPA America Centenary Championship in USA next month. He spoke with Complete Sports’ SAB OSUJI. Enjoy excerpts…
StarTimes are the official broadcast right owners of the German Bundesliga League. With the close of the 2015/2016 campaign, can you in a nutshell tell us your evaluation of the season that has just been concluded.
It was a fantastic season. As expected, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund emerged the winners and runners-up respectively. We saw a wonderful league and fantastic football, excellently delivered to our viewing audience in a spectacular fashion that is StarTimes trade mark. We saw Nigerian players–Leon Balogun and Anthony Ujah do their thing to the delight of their clubs and Nigerian fans at home courtesy of StarTimes. Of course, it also witnessed a twist; despite great performances by Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski and others, we also saw the exit of a great coach, Pep Guardiola who left the Bundesliga in a blaze of glory. After guiding Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga title, Guardiola took his exit and headed for another league, the English Premier League, where he will manage Manchester City Football Club. StarTimes, like you said, has the German league broadcast rights, we also do a lot of promotion around it. It also extends to even engaging some subscribers. Remember during our last five years anniversary, we rewarded some lucky subscribers with trips to Germany to watch some matches live at some stadia out there in Germany. We equally sponsored some journalists to experience Bundesliga live in Germany. So, It has been interesting. It’s a journey of five years and we’ve just taken the first step. More interesting things are to come along the way.
What do you mean by a journey of five years?
Actually, StarTimes has the broadcast rights of the German Bundesliga for five years, this is just the first. It is a thrilling experience and it gives us a lot of encouragement and motivation that it will be a huge success.
Certainly there are a couple of Nigerians plying their trades in the German Bundesliga. How delighted are you, I mean, StarTimes, in bringing these Nigerian players in action live and direct to the viewing pleasure of passionate Nigerian fans of this League?
Nigerian players do not ply their football trades only in England. They are all over Europe and Germany have their own fair share of it. We know how ‘German Machines’ are in Europe and the world at large. There are Nigerians there too. Presently, we have some Super Eagles players based in Germany. Like I said earlier, we have a defender, Leon Balogun and a striker, Anthony Ujah also playing in the German Bundesliga. We are delighted to be involved in broadcasting the games, bringing them to Nigerians to watch one of their own play in a strong league like the Bundesliga. We also extend our coverage to other leagues like the French Ligue 1, Italian Serie A and the Chinese Super League, CSL. StarTimes covers all those leagues because everywhere there are Nigerians playing, so many Nigerians want to see their players no matter where they are. StarTimes provides that platform for them to see their players in action.
Are you saying StarTimes is excited to bring to Nigerians the German Bundesliga players in the comfort of their living rooms?
Certainly, StarTimes is really excited bringing Bundesliga to Nigerians and we are even extending it to Asia. The Chinese Super League, CSL, is showing on StarTimes. Obafemi Martins is playing there in China. There are also (Ezequel) Lavezzi as well as Demba Ba. These are great players you can see in the Chinese league. It shows the quality of the league there and we at StarTimes, are proud to have such leagues served Nigerians on our bouquet. We want to extend and expand our people’s viewing horizon on football and not just focusing on England. We want them to also focus on these other key football leagues across the globe.
In business you talk about profit. In corporate sponsorship, mileage is the meeting point. Tell me, did StarTimes get this mileage within this first year of your German Bundesliga broadcast sponsorship for Nigerians?
I’ll say we’ve gotten the mileage. Maybe we are not yet where we want to get to but then we’ve been enormously encouraged by Nigerians’ acceptance and patronage. It’s a gradual process. It takes a lot of investment from us also to get there in terms of marketing. We are putting a lot of resources like Print media, outdoor marketing, radio and television to let the people know first, the property that we have. We create awareness for it, interact with people and all that. It goes beyond acquiring the rights. I want to also say that engaging in consumer interaction is one of our brand or platform goals. So in the next 12 months or even earlier than that, you might be asked to participate in our studio interaction at StarTimes. You watch matches in our live studio in Lagos. We can bring some of our consumers to come and interact there. Viewers can also participate by sending messages to our live studios in Lagos.
That’s interesting. Of course, that brings me to the issue of studio analysts. Many Nigerians who enjoy the Bundesliga on StarTimes feel there is a salient need for Nigerian studio analysts during matches beyond the commentators’ voices we hear during games. What’s your take on this?
Football is not only about showing the content. We’ve taken it beyond that and also want to engage our subscribers or consumers. The popular analysts are known based on the platform they are given.We are starting to develop a new crop of analysts that can engage with subscribers. So it goes beyond you just watching a game but as well catching them from the grassroots which is all about what StarTimes is, localization, participation in the grassroots. We are going to get some analysts to come on board while at the same time sustaining our relationship with the current crop of analysts that we have.
Variety, it is often said, is the spice of life. Against this backdrop, tell us about other leagues that you have on your digital broadcast bouquet such that makes StarTimes, the one-stop pay television for the Nigerian masses.
I said earlier that we have the broadcast rights for the German Bundesliga. We have a five-year right for that and we have just gone through the first season so that means we still have four more years still on the cards to roll. We also have the French Ligue 1 broadcast right;that is a-three-year stuff. The same goes for the Italian Serie A. StarTimes also has the exclusive broadcast rights for the COPA America which starts on June 3 and runs through June 26. It will hold in the United States of America, USA. So, all our subscribers should stay glued from June 3-26 on your StarTimes to watch it. One fact that stands StarTimes out amongst others is its affordability to all with just N1,200. One thing is clear, because of the time difference (seven hours) between Nigeria and USA, one may not be able to go outside to watch the COPA America. The only or preferred option is for you to stay in your house with your family and watch it with just N1,200.00. With all the leagues almost over now, we are going to be broadcasting all the International Club Championships live on StarTimes. It is going to be held in three countries, Australia, USA and China. This is a major pre-season championship where you have the likes of Leicester City, the current English Premier League champions, AC Milan of Italy, FC Barcelona and others. We’ve got a whole lot of football content for our subscribers and customers in the next few weeks. With StarTimes, there’s never a dull moment.
Why the move to acquire broadcast rights of Serie A, French Ligue 1, Chinese Super League, CSL and others?
Taking a cue from what you mentioned earlier, ‘variety as a spice of life’, I can say that StarTimes does not just want to stay stuck to just one league. We want to serve our esteemed viewers and customers, football made in different countries. We know that South Americans are Samba Kings, Europeans have their own style of play. The same applies to other local leagues across the continents and globe. The German Machines, we’ve seen how they play, so the most important thing is that we want to showcase the Nigerian talents in these different leagues apart from the ones everybody is very familiar with. That’s why we’re extending our horizons beyond that.
Any plans to add the Nigerian League to the StarTimes menu some day?
(Long pause)Yes, why not? (This is of course) if such properties are (put) up for bids. We'll wait for the right time and of course if terms are conducive. Our commitment is to make sure that Nigerians are engaged with not only football but all other contents. StarTimes stands for high quality in terms of football, programmes for kids and everything entertainment. That’s what we are pushing for. We are proudly Nigerian, sustaining a Nigerian business and also giving high quality content to all our subscribers.
Any relationship with FIFA and it’s competitions?
In the last one year, we’ve been partnering with FIFA especially in the age group competitions except for the senior World Cup. We have been building that relationship for a while. Who knows? Of course, you never can tell so let’s keep it in our back pockets. StarTimes may be the ones to show the next World Cup. We’ve aired the Women’s FIFA World Cup, U-17 World Cup and even the U-20 World Cup on StarTimes. Yes, we are building that relationship (with FIFA) so we'll keep on with doing so.
What has been Nigerians’ responses by way of appreciation to StarTimes in the face of all these goodies you recounted that you have provided and continue to do?
Definitely, Nigerians are very appreciative and they have demonstrated it to StarTimes. To just say a little, our subscribers have remained very loyal and for those of them that have our decoders and all of that. I want to use this opportunity to say thank you to Nigerians for partnering with StarTimes and we want to encourage them to keep patronizing StarTimes because like I said earlier, ‘with StarTimes, there’s never a dull moment”. We’ve got a whole lot in stock for Nigerians to watch. As regards to not just football now but entertainment, we’ve got it. Be it music, current affairs, fashion or religious contents, we have them all for our subscribers and viewers. So we say thank you Nigerians and would like them to keep being our subscribers.
Finally, the 2016/2017 Bundesliga starts in August, that’s just a few months away. As Television broadcast rights owners of the league, from your experiences about the concluded campaign, what should your subscribers expect in the coming season?
Our subscribers should expect improved packaging from us here at StarTimes, in terms of engagements. We are not just going to show it to you but we are going to engage you our subscribers. You will see more engagement from our own end and of course, communication too. We’ll also continue to improve on our strengths and weaknesses too. As a test ground towards the COPA America, we have a radio show, we have daily columns in the press and also television shows. This is like a pilot, the success of whatever we are going to do on the COPA America will transcend to the coming Bundesliga season and other leagues which we have the broadcast rights in the new season. So Nigerians should watch out, you are going to see a lot from us here at StarTimes.
First, I have to appreciate Nigerians; they have been very much responsive to StarTimes since we got on board the digital television space in the country. Recently we won two awards, from the industry, I mean LCCI awards where we came tops as the fastest growing pay TV Company in Nigeria. Again, in the technology sector, it is also a recognized fact that StarTimes is doing so well. We were voted as the best pay TV operator in Nigeria, BOICT award. So, that’s what we’ve been doing lately. Also, with our COPA America campaign, in order to engage our subscribers more, we have a predict-and-win competition. As a StarTimes subscriber, if you predict each game, you stand a chance of winning cash prizes daily, through-out the match days across all the states we do our business in Nigeria. Also, on a daily basis, our subscribers will win mobile phone recharge cards. As we say, with StarTimes, there is never a dull moment. So while you sit in the comfort of your rooms enjoying the COPA America, watching (Lionel) Messi with his spectacular dribbles, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alexis Sanchez and Sergio Kun Aguero scoring fantastic goals, you will at the same win for yourself fantastic prizes in cash and mobile phone recharge cards. At StarTimes, our commitment remains: "giving to Nigerians, the best of football, entertainment, local and international contents”. Now that we’re talking football, our commitment is to give you live and timely, the best of Bundesliga, Serie A; Ligue 1 and the best of pre- season club competitions.
Thank you so much Mr Kafar for finding time to speak with Complete Sports.
One thing I would want to reiterate is that for Nigerians to watch the COPA America, they will have to pay N1,200.00 only in order to have access to all the 32 matches to be shown live and exclusive on StarTimes. For a complete package, all you need to do is to pay N3,900.00, to have the access to watch matches live and exclusive on StarTimes. Thank you so much for having me.