MultiChoice wants to raise exposure to Nigerian sports betting


Africa’s biggest pay-TV group MultiChoice is keen to raise its stake in Nigerian sports-betting group BetKing, CEO Calvo Mawela tells The Africa Report.

“We will look at opportunities to raise the stake,” Mawela says in Johannesburg. Buying more, he said, depends on how well BetKing executes its strategy on the ground.

MultiChoice in November bought 20% of BetKing for $81m plus a possible performance-related payment of $31m. Mawela expects that growth in Nigerian viewers will follow the pattern seen in South Africa, where growth followed expansion to peri-urban areas. The BetKing stake, Mawela says, fits in with MultiChoice’s strategy focusing on sports coverage and local content.

Sports betting improves viewer engagement, he says. “It’s an adjacent, complementary business” and “will be a very important business in the future.”

Some would prefer viewer engagement to be improved by means other than gambling, which can lead to addiction. BetKing offers the chance to wager on English Premier League soccer, so let us take the example of former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, who spent 45 years as a sports gambling addict. In his sixties he was still getting up in the middle of the night to find something to bet on.

  • Shilton, England’s most capped male player, earned more money in his career than most Nigerians ever will, but was dogged by financial problems as a result of gambling.
  • The truth is that no amount of money is enough to pay for a gambling addiction.
  • Neither, in the early years of his addiction, was online betting available. That’s in contrast to Nigeria today, where some unemployed youths see online sports betting as a way to earn a living.

Nairametrics estimates that 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40 are involved in active sports betting. BetKing, which calls itself the “Playground for Kings” started up in February 2018 and also has operations in Kenya and Ethiopia.

It’s known for paying shopkeepers commissions of up to 30% to push punters towards riskier types of bets. Requirements to become an agent are rudimentary: a shop in a busy area, at least two cashiers, three TVs, a stable Internet connection and three laptops.

Local content

MultiChoice was spun off by Naspers and separately listed in February 2019. French pay-television group Canal Plus in October took a 12% stake. So far this is simply a financial investment, but there are ongoing discussion on possible collaboration, Mawela says.

The company has turned away from Hollywood as a source of content and aims to use more local programmes which, Mawela says, Africans can better relate to. Within three years, MultiChoice aims to raise the share of local content to 55% in cost terms, from 45% now.

Mawela plans to extend the MultiChoice strategy of being a “super aggregator” in which the content from an entire platform, such as Netflix, is made available to viewers. The aim is to add more such platforms in the course of the next year, he says.

The firm is also considering launching an educational channel in east Africa.

  • Educational programmes had strong ratings during lockdown periods, says Mawela. Such a channel would probably start in Kenya and then possibly expand. There may be an announcement in the near future, he adds.
  • Science and maths teaching could be leveraged across the region, Mawela says.
  • The dangers of gambling addiction would also make a good series.

Bottom line

Young Nigerians are more likely to start betting on sports than buy insurance or open a bank account.