The Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) is one of the oldest football leagues in Africa. Established in 1972, the league enjoyed an extended period of popularity as fans were sharply divided by loyalty to various clubs, based on their regions of origin or area of residence.
But the league began to suffer massive setback around the late 1990s and the early 2000s. These setbacks were mostly owing to declining appeal owing to poor management structures. This fault was significant in the face of the growing popularity of western football around the same period, especially the English Premier League.
Estimatedly, Nigerians lose an estimate of over $200 million annually that could have been accrued from media rights paid to other countries for the local consumption of foreign league content, purchase of items like jerseys as well as endorsement by local brands.
One of the steps the League Management Company (LMC) is taking in reversing its fortune is granting prospective audience ready access to league games.
After several botched broadcasting ventures such as one with South African PayTv giant, SuperSports, the LMC finally decided to go digital with its content. That decision birthed the NPFL.TV.
NPFL.TV was launched in December 2020. It already has more than 10,000 downloads on Google’s Play Store while thousands mostly by Nigerians based abroad.
The NPFL.tv app features
The NPFL.TV app has a silky smooth interface which guarantees smooth transition between its different sections.
The Live section is reserved for live games. It is important to note that the app shows only one live game per match day, usually on Sundays. Although, some users have raised eyebrows about this fact. They say that if they must pay to watch live matches then they must have options to select from per game week.
“Since we are paying, we should be able to select the matches we want to watch,” said Toluwalope Samuel.
Nwukabu Danjuma was of the same opinion, insisting that it would be helpful to play matches on different days as against playing 80% of them at the same time. This, he believes, would help the app stream more interesting.
I reached out to an LMC official that identified himself as Andy to understand why paying users can’t choose games they want to watch. He noted that there are plans to have as many games at a time in the future. But, for now, the app is basically in its testing stage mode.
He also noted that the app is free until certain details have been sorted:
“Games are free for now. There are plans to have as many games as possible. Subscription isn’t tied to that for now. It is tied to what is going to be beamed.”– said Andy, an LMC staff
He also noted that users do not need to worry about subscriptions until some time in the future. He didn’t say indicate when that will be though.
Besides, users can catch up with other games by going to the Videos section to find full videos of other matches played on the same game day in the Catchup subsection or watch older matches in the Library subsection.
The Match section also shows you future match schedules in the Fixtures subsection, match results in the Results subsection, the NPFL table is available in the Tables subsection, and users can view pictures from recent games in the Photo Gallery subsection.
There is also a Teams section which shows a profile of the teams in the NPFL by their positions on the league table. It also shows their overall performance and their current form. This appears in the Clubs subsection while Players subsection shows the profile of players by ranking determined by their performance in the season so far.
The final section is the News section which basically brings every update as regards the league to your fingertips. This includes match reports, club news, player reviews and others.
However, some users think there ought to be a Highlights section where they could easily catch up with the interesting parts of the games as against showing them the full matches in the videos section.
“The video segment should contain every highlight and records of all matches played across the country including press conferences, fantastic goals and plays in the league, etc,” Tolulope said.
Onye Gbo agrees with them, insisting that there ought to be extended 5 minutes highlights for all games each week. Hopefully, this is also one of the aspects the LMC is trying to fix before going fully live with the NPFLtv app.
“I‘m impressed with the app but we need match highlights please,” Iboi Isaiah said.
An analysis of the picture quality
Watching a live game on the app was pretty cool although it looked quite ordinary. Just like watching a long recording of a game without interludes.
But since the app is still in its testing stage, I guess interludes like the half screen adverts and match stats popping out from the top screen would come in due course.
The replays were also few and far between, mostly used for goals. But I thought the picture quality was great, especially considering the picture quality an average Nigerian TV station would give. The commentary was also crisp and clear and not the raucous kind reminiscent of Nigerian football games.
However, some users are of the opinion that the app developers could do better with the graphics.
“I watched a few games with my free trial. Great commentary and good video quality though I think it can be better,” Onye Gbo says.
Victor Isikhueme thinks the font size could be made bigger and clearer. Kenneth noted that the league table format is very poor and does not give the full view at a glance. Ahmed Abdulkareem simply wants the developers to work on the graphics.
Pricing and payment
While offerings on the app can be accessed for free at the moment, there are pricing specifications for the service.
The basic monthly subscription is N1,500 but users who don’t prefer a monthly package could pay per game at the rate of N200. However, some users think the price is a bit on the high side.
“Nice app but ridiculous pricing,” Tolu Balogun says. “You can’t expect me to pay N1,500 monthly to watch NPFL matches,” he added.
His comment reflects how lowly some Nigerians consider the quality of the football league.
“I’m sure this will market our league,” Mike D said. “The league body should move to the next step which is having its own channel on DSTV and StarTimes. But I will not support asking those watching online to pay N1,500,” he added.
Nzube Ndubuisi, while acclaiming the app as a welcome development, thinks N200 is too much to pay per game. Kenneth Asenime on the hand doesn’t mind paying N1,500 as long as he gets value for the money paid. Sopuruchukwu Egbodo is willing to pay N1,500 per month but with certain conditions”
“Redstrike (app creators) should please fix the graphics. Then cover all the game day matches and give us replays and stats to make the whole thing gel. I’d renew for N1,500 and give them the complete 5-star rating when everything is in place.”Sopuruchukwu Egbodo, NPFLtv user
The only accepted means of payment, for now, is through a bank card. Asked if this won’t limit users outside Nigeria, Andy says other channels for subscription are in the works but users who a lot of users abroad are already paying via the available means.
Much still needs to be done
Users are quite excited about the NPFLtv app and have been making this known through reviews. For most users, the app is a good development. It is therefore not surprising that it has an impressive 4.4 star rating.
Mike said “It’s been a long time I watched the NPFL until I watched the Enyimba vs Abia Warriors game on the app. This is good thinking and I’m sure it will market our league.”
“Great commentary, good image. This is a big achievement by the LMC,” Kamilu Muazu said.
“So far, the app is thrilling,” Onyeka Nwafor said. “Fantastic development. Kudos to the LMC for this innovation. Nigerian football can get better with this kind of ideas,” Shedrack Gabriel said.
Some users want the app to become more user friendly. Tim Nwaobilo said the developers could include a Favourites section as well as a search function. Joseph wants comment sections to be included in the app so fans could ‘banter’ while watching live games.
Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!