The Long Road to the World Cup: South Africa finally takes centre stage in the media spotlight
In the Apartheid years, the prisoners on Robben Island played football to FIFA rules and dreamt of the day when a Black South African Government would invite players from all over world to play. That day has finally arrived and this week we look at the media-build up to the big event that starts this Friday.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has officially open the US$125.5 million International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) situated near the Johannesburg Soccer City Stadium. This world class facility is expected to house more than 500 broadcasters who will transmit World Cup images to billions of viewers in over 214 countries across the world. The South African Broadcasting Corporation is the official broadcaster of the tournament. There have been concerns from some international journalists that their equipment was still stuck at the customs division of local airports. LOC CEO Danny Jordaan promised to personally attend to the matter.
Some idea of the sheer hardware commitment required to power the media coverage frenzy can be gauged from the Eutelsat announcement that it will deploy four of its satellites to support coverage. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) will reinforce its existing permanent capacity on Eutelsat satellites with two extra 72 MHz transponders booked on the W2A satellite. This satellite will enable games, summary reports and highlights of the championship to be broadcast live from the EBU's international broadcast centre, located for the event in Soweto, to its headquarters in Geneva. Images will then be delivered by the EBU to its 75 broadcast members and other clients in extended Europe, using W2A for Europe and W3A for Africa and the Middle East.
All over Africa TV and radio stations have made arrangements to broadcast the crucial live match coverage. For example, the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria and Osmi Sports have licensed Abuja-based FM station Aso radio to transmit live coverage of the matches. Its Sports Correspondent has been accredited by FIFA to cover the event and will provide live coverage from South Africa.
Earlier this week Vision Voice 94.8 FM radio sports presenter Andrew Kabuura arrived in South Africa to provide coverage from the event. That live coverage will go across all Vision Group platforms including print, radio, SMS and television.
Kabuura is at the event courtesy of a special TwentyTen project. TwentyTen, designed to benefit the "African media through 2010 and beyond," is an initiative of Free Voice, World Press Photo, Africa Media Online and lokaalmondiaal.
Up to 16 New Vision and Bukedde journalists have in the past year benefited from specialised 2010 World Cup training by the TwentyTen project, the world soccer governing body FIFA and the French news agency AFP. They had practical training in Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt and Kenya.
The event will undoubtedly push sales of new televisions and devices like PVRs. A reports from Namibia suggests that both LCD flat screens and satellite decoders are flying off the shelves, according hi-fi retailers in Windhoek. People are mostly buying 32 inch screens because of affordability and many want HD or HD ready sets to take advantage of the DStv HD bouquet promotion. However, viewing pleasure comes at a price. TVs like this cost between US$741-1,235, the more expensive prices being for popular branded goods.
DStv has also chosen the World Cup period to promote new, cheaper PVRs for those who want to record things they might miss. For a launch price of just US$257. Functionalities include watching one channel, whilst recording another channel at the same time; as well as pausing, rewinding live programs and fast forwarding live recorded programmes. Subscribers with high definition televisions and with premium subscriptions will be able to watch most of their favourite sports, movies and documentaries in high definition. SuperSport will offer four channels, two in High Definition.
However, the majority of African football fans will watch the event on someone else’s television. Using an approach long adopted on the continent, inhabitants of the squatter camps in Cape Town will be able to pay shebeen owners US64 cents to watch a match on DStv. The shebeen owners should have a licence that costs US$6,420 but of course, they don’t. Companies should reduce these licence prices to legalise the trade but of course, they don’t.
The other techno-wonder that was supposed to get a World Cup boost was mobile TV. ESPN decided against an app and is offering aggregated mobile content that they’re promoting heavily in the USA. South Africa failed to sort out its mobile TV licensing and the DVB-H phones required in the DStv territories outside of South Africa have ensured low take-up so far. With such a low base, the World Cup can only provide a welcome injection of potential new users.
Sony, the Japan-based electronics giant that has partnered with Fifa, soccer's world governing body, to show 3D coverage of this year's World Cup, is expecting a live worldwide audience of "a few hundred thousand" per match, given the limited number of consumers with 3D-enabled television sets. Sony, an existing Fifa partner, is enabling the 3D broadcast of 25 of the 64 games from the tournament in South Africa in co-operation with Fifa, and the audience will be restricted to viewers with 3D sets in countries where the rights have been cleared and at public-viewing events. So probably almost no-one in Africa will see 3D versions of the matches.
Millions all over the world will be watching a global event taking place in Africa. After the World Cup, what next?