Nduka Irabor Opens Up On NPFL TV Challenges (AUDIO)

Former chairman of the League Management Company (LMC) Hon. Nduka Irabor has thrown light on the bottlenecks preventing live television and online coverage and content creation for the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL).

Hon. Irabor’s assessment of possible television coverage for the league suggests that it could be a while before Nigerians are able to watch domestic football from the comfort of their homes and convenience of their devices.

According to the ace journalist who now recently quit his position as an independent director on the LMC board, Nigeria’s over-reliance on foreign production companies for TV coverage of the NPFL whilst neglecting the development of local capacity, left the LMC “stranded” and without any alternative once the foreign-owned production company decided to pull out from televising matches.

“These last few years we’ve been depending on foreign production companies; they’ve withdrawn now and we are stranded,” Hon. Irabor told busybuddiesng.com. “I think there’s an urgent need to increase or introduce a more modern sophisticated production capacity.”

This “modern sophisticated production capacity” Hon. Irabor said, is something the LMC has struggled to source funds for and are currently “exploring ways” to bring about.

This is the basis of the 5-year deal signed on 12 November 2019 between the LMC and Next Digital Television (NEXT TV) that will see both parties participate in a joint venture for the production, distribution, sales and commercialisation of broadcast assets.

Hon. Irabor, however, maintained that the speed of executing their plans and the timeframe for ensuring the return of domestic football to the airwaves since 2017 and the production of digital content depends largely on overcoming financial constraints which have so far stymied their efforts.

“The League Management Company is exploiting ways to bring this about, so, that we have products that we can put online, we have products that we can dice and cut in a manner the digital space is filled with sporting activities.

“We are trying to build a production company; financing is going to determine how fast we move but we are seriously working on having our own independent production company.”

The transformational change occasioned by the advent of digital technology has seen an attendant global shift in consumption habits of sports fans towards the streaming of sports media content across multiple digital platforms and devices.

Many media concerns and sporting entities have, in response to this global trend, optimized content production to fit the digital age.

Hon. Irabor, however, posits that a lack of production capacity made worse by Nigeria’s digital infrastructural deficit means that meaningful and far reaching advancements in digital content creation will be difficult for domestic sporting concerns.

The solution he contends, will require large doses of creativity and massive investments by the government to bridge the digital infrastructure gap and “improve the digital penetration” across the nation.

“First of all, let all the creative minds and creative juices pour out but for that to happen we need to address the parlous or rather weak infrastructure particularly in terms of the digital platform,” the former federal lawmaker said.

“We can do better than this; the penetration is there but it could be deeper and the stability and latency of the internet we have is not the best for most Over the Top (OTT) products.

“So, let’s improve the digital penetration – the backbone – that the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCCC) has been preaching a long time. Once we do that, then you can find streaming production products on the internet.

“But then to stream, you have to produce. I do know for football and most other sports we lack production capacity. So, it’s time to invest in production capacity to have our own means.”