In 2006 a certain Gary Rathbone landed in Nairobi on a mission. He went out met come football and cricket, rugby officials, cut a couple of deals, splashed some sponsorship money and in a matter of 3-4 short years, he had pretty much accomplished that mission. South African Pay TV station Super Sport had not only resurrected the concept of televising live Kenyan sports but cornered the market.
At the end of June this year, the same Gary Rathbone was poached by up and coming digital satellite provider Zuku, to run their sports channel. Since then there has been a steady increase in the quality and quantity of local content on Zuku Sports. There has been the live coverage of college basketball through the Zuku Basketball leagues, and the magazine show Baqe. There has been the live transmission of this year’s Safaricom 7s rugby tournament as well as highlights of the Enterprise and Kenya Cups. There has also been the coverage of Kenyan track and field athletics at the Diamond Leagues and through a magazine show called setting the Pace. If things work out even the near dead on its feet boxing scene may get a breath of fresh air if things come together right. How much of that is directly a result of Mr. Rathbone? I’m not going to try guess, what matter is that this sea change in the viability of broadcasting local sports leagues is good. The leagues get resources to plough into the game (if their administrations are smart enough), local fans get a feel for how good their own talent actually be, and on the whole the nation’s
On the other hand, these latest moves could be the beginning of a new rivalry in corporate Kenya not much unlike what was witnesses in the ‘beer wars’ between East Africa Breweries Limited and SABMiller in the early noughties. See Super Sport are already occupying some of the turf that Zuku wants to move into, and even at this point there has already been friction over one Zuku muscling in on th Kenya Cup and attempting to launch an Ingwe TV. If the rivalry, works out in appositive manner, this blogger feels that this is just the tip of the iceberg, with sports like field hockey, men and women’s volleyball, handball, perhaps even darts, having significant reach in terms of players, history and or success on the in the country without any kind of exposure on television stations. On the other hand the acrimony that comes in turf wars, shady deals and not very trust worthy people that staff most sports administrations in Kenya means it could set off a powder keg within which we will be thankful when disputes are actually taken to court.
Outside of that grim and possibility, this could even get some of the traditionally terrestrial free-to-air stations to pull their heads out of the backsides and make serious ventures into the field of sports broadcasting. AND I DON’T MEAN PIGGYBACKING ON SOMEBODY ELSE’S SIGNAL FOR A ONE OFF MATCH A LOT OF PEOPLE HAPPEN WANT TO SEE AT THAT PARTICULAR POINT IN TIME!
Anyway I digress. Something is going on at Zuku Sports, AND I LIKE IT