In a twist of events, Super League of Malawi (Sulom) has abandoned the free-to-air television rights bids it was processing to align with Football Association of Malawi’s (FAM) encrypted football channel establishment.
FAM has already invited bids from those interested to produce content for the channel and Sulom president Tiya Somba-Banda has said the top-flight runners and its affiliates were now in full support of the association’s encrypted channel.
He said: “The free-to-air bids were abandoned. We are working together with FAM. We are looking at a whole Malawi football package as one product.”
Surprisingly, the invitation for Sulom’s free-to-air bids was floated just two months ago and by then, FAM was already consulting stakeholders, including Ministry of Youth and Sports, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) and Malawi Digital Broadcast Network Limited (MDBNL ) for the establishment of the football channel.
But Somba-Banda said by then Sulom was not aware of the establishment of a dedicated television channel.
“We were not aware of the plans to have a dedicated encrypted television channel. We learned about it when it was discussed during a meeting we had with Minister of Youth and Sports [Ulemu Msungama] on Covid-19 sometime in July. By then, we had already placed the invitation for the bids,” said the Sulom president.
Interestingly, in August FAM president Walter Nyamilandu was quoted by The Nation as saying the association was in a process of establishing a television channel, just a few days before Sulom announced that three broadcasters—MBC, Times and Zodiak—had submitted bids for TNM Super League matches television rights.
When Sulom floated the invitation for expression of interests, some analysts questioned the decision as it came at a time when there was uncertainty on football resumption due to Covid-19.
But at that time Somba-Banda insisted that the league runners had to plan ahead and find a broadcasting partner.
Asked why the league runners did not take heed of the advice from the experts, Somba said: “The free-to-air television rights bid was the only viable option at that time.”
Times Group commercial manager Lusayo Msukwa said they are yet to decide whether to submit a new bid.
He said: “It’s too early for us to comment. The FAM’s EOI [expression of interest] document is a whole different thing from the Sulom one. Certain decisions will have to be made by the management. Until then, we can’t comment.”
Kelvin Moyo, one of the analysts who warned Sulom against rushing to invite the free-to-air bids, observed that there is lack of consultation when making decisions regarding television rights.
He said: “We seem to be doing things in a rush. There is need for proper research even with the new project. There is need to include mainstream broadcasters in the implementation.”
“Remember we already have pay TV viewers attached to MultiChoice and Azam. GOtv alone has fivefold the number of DStv subscribers. Is FAM so sure that people will abandon these decoders for MDBNL for the sake of football matches?”
FAM last week announced its plans to establish a dedicated subscription based football channel in conjunction with MDBNL on Kiliye Kiliye.
FAM communications director Gomezgani Zakazaka said the process was initiated by Ministry of Youth and Sports.
“The process which was initiated by Ministry of Youth and Sports through Malawi National Council of Sports will see football fans paying monthly subscription for access to live local football matches throughout the season,” reads Zakazaka’ statement.