Africa’s first sports TV radio station stamps its mark on the Nigeria market and looks at going online

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Larry Izamoje’s Sports Radio 88.9 Brila FM was the first sports radio station on the continent and has now been going for 12 years. He’s been able to make commercial sense of a niche radio platform and is now looking at the possibility of extending into online. Russell Southwood spoke to him this week.



The idea of doing sports radio came to Izamoje when he looked at what others were doing elsewhere. While he was producing sports programmes on radio, he discovered that there were 200 sports radio stations in the USA. So in 2002 he got a licence to broadcast.

“In terms of transmission, you have to have a transmitter in each city and then employ people in these cities to look after them. It’s quite expensive to do.” He is currently in 4 cities: Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna and his home city Onitsha. Production is based in Lagos.

The programming changes over the day and works in 15-minute segments. The morning focuses on sports news and the afternoon and evenings are made up of call-ins from fans. The evening is called The Popular Side and is in the words of Izamoje more “freestyle”.

The audience is mainly 18-34 year olds although it picks up listeners of all ages. As with sports radio all over the world, the gender split is 70% male and 30% female. But things are changing:”Women are definitely getting more interested in sports.”

So what audience share does it get? Like many in the industry in Nigeria he is distrustful of existing industry research:”There’s a problem in Nigeria. It can’t be relied upon. There are too many factors. It’s difficult to tell what the market share is.” One dipstick of its popularity is that it has 284,468 likes on its Facebook page without ever having advertised to attract likes.

But for all the doubts about the research, he’s clearly got the formula right as advertisers have been placing spots:”Brands know that there are sports fans everywhere”. He also runs very successful competitions around the big sporting events like the World Cup, the Olympics and the African Cup of Nations.

Some of the biggest advertisers are the mobile operators and beer companies. A new category of advertising is sports betting which just been legalised in Nigeria:”It’s beginning to be exciting.”

It gets its international content through a series of partnerships including Voice of America, Sky Sports News Radio, Team Talk and Deutsche Welle. The latter provides Hausa content for broadcast in Kaduna.

The next big step that Izamoje is contemplating is going online:”We’re looking at the technology for a Brila Sports News TV service, not a terrestrial TV service. We want to go beyond the borders of Nigeria with video channel that can be seen as a visual platform.” There are a number of regulatory issues that need to be clarified but it’s definitely on his agenda,

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