Can this be the year of Rebirth of Kenya’s Basketball?

Many a times a sport in this country undergoes serious degeneration and gets swallowed in the mediocrity of the administration of our general affairs as a State. It is true we can continue moaning about this and sing to the birds till heaven come but nothing changes.

Pres Obam hoopswww.guardian.co.uk

It is with this in mind that some of the administrators in the game of Basketball have decided to change the perception of the game and give it a slow but gradual ‘rise from the ashes’. This process started sometime last year when the Kenya Basketball Federation experimented with the Friday Basketball games which became a favourite for those fans who were looking for alternatives in sports entertainment.

Though the Friday games eventually started attracting less crowds ( the idea was being disputed between the federation and a local entertainment company the latter which wanted to own the rights and larger parts of the revenue and not entirely for the interests of the game), this idea can be explored if fine-tuned and well-thought out.

Coming into the 2013 season, the Federation has been in talks and arrangements in place to screen live games from one or two venues as may be decided by the pay TV channels. This is one big shot in the arm that would go a long way in changing the way the viewed in the country. TV does wonders to a sport which is able to organise and attract favourable crowds and audience both ‘online and offline’. It would also attract some form of revenues in advertising and promotions which the Federation can use to rebrand and gave the game a new face.

Talking of online, there is also a new magazine developed by basketball enthusiasts who also felt it is about time to talk about the game in its entirety, challenges and all. Titled “Inside B’Ball” it seeks to reach a growing number of sports fans who consumer their dose of sports online. It will also give the game of basketball a wider reach that it has been yearning for. It also good for the Federation to work closely with such entrepreneurs who will offer commercial assistance on ways to generate ideas and revenues for the game.

It’s now for Kenya Basketball Federation to start engaging corporate firms and the Government where necessary to ensure that they get better infrastructure across the country – venues, training areas and exhibition areas. This can start with a refurbishment of the Nyayo Gymnasium – the place is need of a serious paint job, better lighting, sound systems and a scoreboard. The court and its surroundings also need a touch and markings to ensure it fits to world standards. It was embarrassing in 2010 when the venue hosted the Street Basketball exhibition games and there was a leak on the roofs.

The only venue which fits the bill is Kasarani multi-purpose gymnasium which is slightly away from town and might not be able to attract crowds as yet due to its proximity and accessibility. Other venues such as the Makande gymnasium in Mombasa would need expansion and better markings to ensure better experience for players and fans alike. Kisumu and Nakuru and any other major towns should look to developing indoor venues for such sports and this will offer alternative forms of entertainment and engagement with the youth.

College Basketball in Kenyawww.basket-in-africa.blogspot.com

Another mention should be the Zuku sponsorship of the Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL). Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, this league was very competitive and saw 2-3 teams from qualify for the national Premier League. This should be followed through by Kenya Basketball Federation to see that they separate college and university teams from the semi-professional and corporate-sponsored teams. This way it will be easier to have a purely professional league and one that has learning institutions. The two would serve a complimentary role with one being a feeder to the other. We have seen that work successfully in more developed leagues such as the NBA and the NCCA College Basketball  in the United States.

Finally, NBA is making in-roads into Africa and it’s about time that Kenya got a player or two representing a team from this famed league. There is a liasion office in South Africa closely watching what activities Kenyan basketball is undertaking. There are also the equally well-developed European Leagues in countries like Spain, Greece to name but a few which can come and recruit our talent and offer exposure to our players to the international game.

Can this be the rebirth that Kenyan Basketball has been yearning for?

Ingwe TV – Smart move or ill-advised?

There has been all the hullabaloo about the AFC Leopards-Ingwe TV deal with Zuku and the concerned club’s status with KPL’s sponsored by SuperSport. While the easier path is for KPL/SuperSport to feel infringed by the deal, it’s in the club’s interest to look for alternative sources of revenue and by extension engagement channels. The TV channel which is supposed to screen 36 episodes of half-hour each covering past games, interviews, team news and historical journals. If anything, it has been SuperSport and KPL’s personnel sleeping on the job for lack of initiative to engage local clubs on setting up their own TV channels.

Ingwe TV logocourtesy of www.afcleopards.net

Across the world, major football clubs have their own channels which serve to endear themselves to their fans and provide an added platform for not just engaging with them but also for sponsors, advertisers and related parties to reach the audience.

The main bone of contention is that AFC Leopards playing in the SuperSport-sponsored KPL ( now Tusker Premier League) which sees it enjoy live coverage of their matches and also featured in the weekly football magazine Simba Soccer programme among others. Now if you look at it carefully, this is the same sort of engagement with other clubs in the KPL only that AFC Leopards ( and maybe 3-5 other clubs) would have a rich heritage as that of Leopards affectionately known as Ingwe by its fans.
And though AFC Leopards had earlier tried such a deal with Smart TV before it went under, it is a veritable decision which is bound to cause other clubs to start looking for such alternatives.
If you look at the revenue sources for football clubs in the country, the main ones come from corporate sponsors who still haven’t put enough monies to cater for huge expenses incurred by the clubs in its wages, training and youth facilities. The monies from SuperSport are also not enough with the booty shared according to how well the club does on the standings at the end of the season. Ticket sales on match-days are so haphazard and given the apathy that fans are bound to build following recent spates of fan trouble and violence, it is not yet a reliable source.

This leaves clubs such as AFC Leopards with deals such as Ingwe TV. The challenge now will be on its management and club aficionados to come up with regular and relevant content both from current and past games. If they have rich archives of past glory days ( maybe they can have a chat with KBC management…) and also dig through past dailies and other publications, they would be able to create such content. Engaging past players and current ones too would see it provide a source of livelihood and work for these players.

In Zuku , they would be able to leverage not just on the TV channel but also on the Internet and online platforms which would be quite engaging as we see a major shift of users to online and mobile usage across the country and African region as well. It would also help Zuku attract additional customers to its triple play solutions and hence create a win-win situation for both parties.

As we write this KPL has threatened AFC Leopards with suspension unless it cancels the deal but Richard Bell the Wananchi Group CEO ( which is the mother company for Zuku) has said they’ll stay put since they didn’t infringe on any rights. Hoping sanity prevails between all parties and though commercial interests maybe the main drivers, one without the other will see a loss not just to the club, TV companies but also to the fan who is the ultimate target in the whole of this equation.

Zuku to Screen African Athletics Championships – 27th June – 1st July

Wananchi Group through its Zuku flagship – Zuku Sports more specifically – will screen the continental Athletics championships which start today 27th June to 1st July 2012. This is in line of improving its offering for sports enthusiasts and subscribers to its triple play (bandwidth, Tv and voice) services.

Hannelie Bekker as quoted said ” securing the exclusive rights to broadcast such an important athletics event in East Africa is a huge honor. It is a big year for sport, African athletes are doing well, and we’re delighted to showcase and celebrate that.”
Zuku has been offering quite the variety in its sports menu having already secured screening rights for the Diamond League which is one of the premiere athletics sports events on the IAAF circuit. The African Athletics championships comes hot on the heels of Olympic qualifiers from the various athletics powerhouses in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa among others.

No more excuses for lack of sporting action!

ZUKU to air 2012 Samsung IAAF Diamond League Athletics series…

Diamond League logocourtesy of IAAF

As part of improving its sports menu, Zuku has confirmed that it has live broadcast rights for the 2012 Diamond  League sponsored by Samsung ( now in its 4th year of sponsoring the League). With the Diamond Series having a total of 15 Grand Prix events which started in Doha on 11th May traversing various American, European and Asian cities with the final event being held in Brussels on 7th September 2012.
These Grand Prix events will be used by many athletes to warm up for the upcoming Olympic Games in London from July to August. It will also serve as great breeding grounds for upcoming talents for which Kenyan and African athletes have continually dominated especially in the middle to long distance races. The same will go for individual rivalries being settled by the cut of the tape. Further enticement from the organisers is breaking of world records in the individual disciplines for the favoured athletes.

ZUKU logocourtesy of www.zuku.com

Entertainment for you the discerning athletics fans and watching audience of ZUKU programmes will be happy to note that the likes of Usain Bolt, David Rudisha, Vivian Cheruiyot, Pamela Jelimo have already run in the first 2 events and shall surely be part of some if not a fair share of the GPs.
As Hannelie Bekker -MD Wananchi Programming ( ZUKU) aptly put it, “ZUKU is proud to be broadcasting the 2012 Samsung Diamond League and proud of Kenyan athletes. They are some of Africa’s brightest stars…”

The remaining Grand Prix events in the Diamond League series to be screened by ZUKU are as follows;

  1. 31st May : Rome – Italy ( 2000 – 2200 hours Local East Africa time)
  2. 2nd June: Eugene – USA ( 1130 – 1330hrs)
  3. 7th June: Oslo – Norway ( 2000 – 2200hrs)
  4. 9th June: New York – USA ( 1500 – 1700hrs)
  5. 6th July: Paris – France ( 2000 – 2200hrs)
  6. 13th July: London – England ( 1900 – 2100hrs)
  7. 14th July: London – England ( 1500 – 1700hrs)
  8. 20th July: Monaco – Monaco ( 2000 – 2200hrs)
  9. 17th August: Stockholm – Sweden ( 2000 – 2200hrs)
  10. 23rd August: Lausanne – Switzerland ( 2000 – 2200hrs)
  11. 26th August: Birmingham – England (1500 – 1700hrs)
  12. 30th August: Zurich – Switzerland (2000 – 2200hrs)
  13. 7th September: Brussels – Belgium (2000 – 2200hrs)

SportsKenya’s Qs & As: Hannelie Bekker – MD Wananchi Programming

In the first of our new segment for our discerning readers, we feature a Q&A session with MD – Wananchi Programming Hannelie Bekker on their huge sports investment in the Zuku SlamFest 2012 for the game of basketball among other developments at Zuku TV. Here are some of the highlights of that session;   
SportsKenya: Hi and thanks for this opportunity.   
Hannelie Bekker: Thanks for the opportunity too and welcome to the SlamFest ride 🙂  
Hannelie Bekker – MD Wananchi Group
SK: Zuku SlamFest 2012. How did this idea come about? Give us the background of why basketball and not any other sport. 
HB: Our analysis of the market showed that while
basketball is loved and played on school, university and community level, and
brands like the NBA command enormous respect and admiration, the sport is not
championed in a substantial or sustained way by any broadcaster. From case
studies all around the world we know that broadcast plays a huge role in
building up sporting codes, and so we embraced this as a great opportunity to
do just that. 
SK: What is the rationale behind the tournament? 
HB:  We spent some time with Vision21 last year, exploring opportunities in
regional sports. Steve Othoro, with his longstanding, extensive network in the
regional and international basketball world, proposed the idea of a regional
basketball tournament, something he had been mulling over since his return to
Kenya. We then developed the idea together, and the further we got the more
attractive it looked! We see it as a great platform to showcase the basketball
talent in the region, to create a high standard of competition, to raise the
standard of local sports production for television and, above all, to create a
hugely entertaining and compelling experience for the audience. 
SK: There have been many interests in sports events in Kenya in the last few years, including the Safari Sevens, the Safari Rally, Kenya Golf Open to name but a few. Which other sporting disciplines is Wananchi (Zuku) looking to get into in the short, medium or longer term? 
HB: It would be unwise of us to reveal too
many of our plans too soon! 
SK: What of local, regional or continental interests? 
HB: It could be any of these; however, I think it is
clear already that greater East Africa as a region is really important to
us; it’s where we are based, our “home”, so to speak, and we are
invested in its growth and success. 
SK: What are your thoughts on sports and investments by media into the same? 
HB:  Every
media business has to make strategic decisions about what it invests in – and
of course there are always constraints, especially around sports, which is
expensive to stage & shoot. I think that where the right alliances are
formed the combination of a sporting code, a broadcaster and potentially also
business (in the form of sponsorship) is a really powerful one, win-win for
everyone.
Zuku SlamFest 2012 Launch – Africa NBA VP Amadou Gallo Foll greets Richard Bell – CEO Wananchi Group
SK: Sports organisations in Kenya have not exploited or leveraged their sports with the media, what would you advise them?
HB: That the
media is absolutely crucial in creating and maintaining a profile for sports,
sporting codes and sports people, and strong working relationships between
sports organisations and the media are mutually beneficial, AND benefit the
public – even better, if makes fans out of them.
SK: Going further afield on the international sports scene, the English Premier League has opened up bids for screening of their games for the 2013/14 season. Any hopes that Wananchi Group (Zuku) would be part of the bidding process?
HB: No comment on that for now… 
SK: What are the 3 things that media consumers DO NOT KNOW about Zuku?  
HB:  1) That Zuku
is the fastest growing pay-tv platform in East Africa;
2)That apart
from very many third party channels we also have 7 own, Zuku-branded channels,
that are managed right here in Nairobi; and
3)That we
are the only triple play provider on the African continent!
SK: What issues would you wish addressed to making investments in media and related infrastructure in Kenya more profitable and lucrative for new players? 
HB: It is a
well-publicised fact that we (Wananchi) think that the pay-tv landscape is
insufficiently competitive. 
SK: Shall Zuku screen the 2012 Olympic Games from London?
HB: We do not
have the rights to the live broadcast, however, viewers can look forward to
excellent highlights, updates and round-ups, both on BBC World (who will be
pulling out all the stops in their hometown!) and Zuku Sports.
SK: What can sports enthusiasts and consumers expect from Zuku Sports in the next 12 months?
HB: Athletics
lovers are in for a treat, with the Diamond League (live) starting in the next
couple of days and running through September, and promising excellent
performances by Kenyan and global athletes. We will also carry live broadcasts
of a few marathons (Prague, Stockholm & Beijing); the npower Championships
are hotting up, with the finals in mid-May; we’re beefing up our mixed martial
arts presence and have just signed some interesting live boxing rights (details
to follow
); we’ll broadcast 7 NBA play-off games, the wrap-up of the CopaLibertadores – and much more.
SK: Final words?
HB: We would
love to hear from you. Follow us on Twitter (@ZukuOfficial), friend us on
Facebook (Zuku Official) – we are keen to hear what you think about Zuku, Zuku
Sports, Slamfest, or anything else you have on your minds.
And see
you at Kasarani for Slamfest 2012!
{ Much appreciation to Liz Owuoche – SilverBullet PR for facilitating this interview}

Zuku Slamfest…a boon for Regional Basketball

As TV stations look towards sport to improving their content, Wananchi Group through their Zuku channel is adding more local content to engage and excite local (and also regional ) subscribers to their services.

In a first for the game of basketball, Zuku together with Vision 21 Sports Consulting – a sports marketing firm with its offices in Dakar , Senegal as well as Nairobi, Kenya – will air “Zuku Slamfest” – tournament to be held in July 2012 at the Kasarani Gymnasium. This event targets about 8 countries and it will be a show of talent and skills in the game of basketball. The winners will take home about KSh.8.5million ( US$ 100,000).
This is a big boon to the game of basketball seeing that FridayNightBasketball has been the buzz for the last season and going forward the Kenya Basketball Federation needs such media partners to heighten the game’s reach.
The idea is also great for local content providers who will ensure that there is variety in not just the usual sports coverage, but also in terms of well-researched documentaries and events too.
Kudos to Zuku for seeing the sense in more local sport!

Update:
The Zuku team announced that the ZUKU SlamFest 2012 will take place from the 20th- 22nd of July 2012. There are 8 countries to participate in the tournament coming from Benin, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and hosts Kenya. A total of 16 games will be played by these teams which shall be carefully selected by tournament organisers Vision 21.
Wananchi Group CEO Richard Bell said that this tournament is meant to ‘showcase local and regional basketball talent and skill and raise the standard of the game as well as basketball media productions‘.
Preceding the tournament will be a documentary series Passport with a tour of the 8 participating countries and reviewing the growing culture of the basketball game in these states.

Hope this is what the Doctor recommended for Kenya’s basketball fledging fortunes!

Zuku making in-roads in Kenyan Rugby: Title Sponsors for Impala Floodlights 2011

Yesterday’s unveiling of official sponsor Zuku , continues the local (or it is regional yet?)multi-media’s company (Wananchi Group) in-roads in local sport. Starting with a suprise package last year of sponsoring the Kenya v/s Zimbabwe Victoria Cup tie and even securing screening rights, the media company has sought to change the sporting scene and is slowly making its mark especially in rugby. (…coincidentally in both cases, the sponsorship has been for the magical figure of KSh. 2 million each…)

ZUKU logo courtesy of www.zuku.co.ke

Rugby purists have not been entirely amused by these entreaties made to the Kenya Rugby Union since an earlier arrangement with SuperSport was seeing the Kenyan game getting more coverage and the sports media powerhouse was in the process of making substantial investment in the local game and production only for this to be dropped. Up until the writing of this post, it is not known who will screen Kenya’s premiere rugby event the Safari Sevens though title sponsors Safaricom have already confirmed their willingness to continue supporting the event.
Kenya Rugby officials need be informed that while it is good to have companies coming on board with the much-needed financial support, it is also fair to review and where possible NOT ANTAGONISE existing corporate sponsors. Our sources tell us there has been some tension among top officials due to this gung-ho way of conducting rugby business. It will be fair to evaluate existing support and negotiate for better terms with these firms rather than going behind their backs to find new partners.
This was part of the reason the move of the Safari 7s to Nyayo stadium has not augured well with the staunchest of supporters in rugby and by extension traditional rugby powerhouses (without naming any for now).

All the same, we applaud Wananchi Group through ZUKU for making their case with the 30th edition of the Impala Floodlights. We shall be watching your move as you engage in local sport and pray that your worthy support can continue to other sporting disciplines as well. You can also explore developing cutting-edge programming in sports for your local audience and clientele which is still deficient of any comprehensive sports magazines.

See y’all at the Impala Grounds for the next 4 weekends!