NTV revs up for WRC Safari Rally with live TV deal

The Nation Media Group (NMG) acquired the broadcast rights for the 2022 World Rally Championship (WRC) series through the company’s television station, NTV. NMG Chief Executive Officer Stephen Gitagama confirmed that NTV will broadcast the remaining 12 rounds of the WRC series, including the iconic WRC Safari Rally that runs from June 23 to 26.

Gitagama was speaking when he signed a Sh40 million partnership for the series with the WRC Safari Rally’s Chief Executive Officer, Phineas Kimathi, at a ceremony held on Kimathi Street, outside NMG’s Nation Centre headquarters.  The amount covers both cash (Sh10 million) for the rights purchase and publicity value (Sh30 million) for the WRC Safari Rally.

Gitagama said that NMG has been part of the great Safari Rally journey over the years, religiously covering the annual competition on its various platforms “through the great and not-so-great times.” “It was exciting to see Safari Rally back in the World Rally Championship Series with about 60 cars taking part in last year’s race.

“We saw over Sh6.7 billion pumped into the economy last year and more will be pumped in as we gear up for this year’s WRC Safari Rally,” said Gitagama, noting that according to the WRC Promoter – who run the WRC’s marketing arm — Nation.Africa was among the world’s top 12 performers in online coverage of the WRC Safari Rally last year.

“(Also last year) Nation Media Group contributed over Sh25 million in advertisements in all its forums,” Gitagama said. The 2021 Safari Rally was the most watched event in the 2021 WRC Series with over 120 million impressions on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and twitter, making it the highest in the Series’ 53 years history. In addition, YouTube recorded 16 million Safari Rally views helping in exposing the country as a scenic tourism destination.

Gitagama said it was exciting to see young drivers like Maxine Wahome, McRae Kimathi and Jeremy Wahome taking up the space that could be left by the legends like Ian Duncan, Baldev Chager and Carl Tundo, among others. “We hope Kenyans will enjoy as NTV brings you all the WRC Series live this year,” he said.

Also in attendance were rally drivers Maxine, Jeremy and McRae and Japan’s Deputy Ambassador to Kenya, Yasuhisa Kitagawa. Kitagawa described the WRC Safari Rally as “an important and exciting event.” “I want to commend Kenyan government for hosting Safari Rally as part of the World Rally Championships last year. This is a clear indication that Kenya has the capacity to host major world championships,” he said, adding that it was exciting he got an opportunity to interact with championship-winning Toyota Gazoo crew at last year’s Safari.

“I am happy that the world’s most difficult rally will be hosted in Kenya up to 2026 and NMG will be airing it.” WRC Safari Rally CEO Kimathi said that the government’s support was of great value right from funding and security. “The WRC is a mission that understands sports and reinforces the value of a country. So far, Kenya is the only country in Africa to ever host a WRC event, and I want to thank the Nation Media Group for today’s support,” he said.

He added: “The Nation Media Group is now allowed to screen the 14 World Rally Championships from all over the world. Two events are already gone — the Monte Carlo Rally and Rally Sweden.” Meanwhile, Kitagawa also noted that Kenya and Japan enjoy close sporting ties with Kenyan athletes, Eliud Kipchoge and Peres Jepchirchir, having won the men’s and women’s marathon gold medals during the Tokyo Olympics Games last year.

Earlier, WRC drivers Maxine, Jeremiah, McRae had discussions revolving around the rallying space and their experiences racing internationally on NTV’s morning show Your World.  The drivers also got into their cars to thrill those present with some action along Kimathi Street, the “donuts” (circular spins) thrilling scores of fans who thronged Kimathi Street to witness the early morning launch.

“Racing in Sweden was quite interesting. It was our first time driving on snow and new conditions. It offered a good experience ahead of the Equator Rally this weekend,” said McRae, who made history as the first African driver to finish Rally Sweden in February.

McRae, who was co-driven by Mwangi Kioni finished 30th overall and fourth in the Junior WRC category. The pair are beneficiaries of the International Automobile Federation’s Rally Star programme.  Jeremiah said that it was great to draw youngsters to motorsport, see what they can learn.

 “On women in rallying, Maxine said she hopes to inspire more of them to join the sport. “It’s our time to take up the mantle from the likes of Baldev Chager, Ian Duncan, Carl Tundo. It is a revolution but we shall need sponsorship from companies like Nation and Kenya Airways,” she said.