The NBA is making a new play for fans in Africa by splitting with the continent's biggest sports broadcaster and teaming up with a Zimbabwean telecommunications entrepreneur who started his first business with $75.
The NBA announced Thursday that it has a new multiyear deal with Econet Media to show live games and other NBA programs on Econet's pay TV, Internet and mobile platforms in sub-Saharan Africa from the 2016-17 season. The deal makes Econet the NBA's official broadcaster in sub-Saharan Africa and will offer viewers over 500 games a year, the NBA said, including the playoffs and finals. It also includes WNBA games.
It will see the NBA end its relationship with South Africa-based satellite TV broadcaster SuperSport. That contract expires at the end of this season. The NBA didn't disclose financial details or say exactly how long the Econet agreement was for.
"I can tell you this is the largest partnership in the history of the NBA in Africa," NBA vice president and managing director for Africa Amadou Gallo Fall said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.
Fall confirmed the new agreement to the AP ahead of the public announcement.
Econet began life as a cellphone network in Zimbabwe, where founder Strive Masiyiwa started his first company with $75. He also fought a long legal battle against the government of President Robert Mugabe to be allowed to compete against Zimbabwe's state-run telecommunications company.
Masiyiwa now has telecom and media businesses across Africa, and in North America, South America, Europe and Asia. Masiyiwa's net worth was estimated to be $600 million in 2014, according to Forbes Magazine.
The partnership would likely offer Africans more affordable access to the NBA even though it would still be on Econet's new pay TV service. Distributing more content on mobile devices could also help the NBA's reach on a continent where only a few have satellite or pay TV, but millions have cellphones and other wireless devices.