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Project Fame – Another Type of Sport

Source: Victor Obot - Nigeriafilms.com

Last weekend would have been like any other weekend in the country. However for sports lovers (most especially fans of the round leather game) it was no ordinary weekend.

The weekend marked the beginning of the English Premier League and even a stranger in Lagos knows that the English Premier League is the most popular and most watched soccer league in the country. Soccer lovers adorned the jersey of their favourite clubs and headed to the numerous viewing centres in the country to watch the kick off of this season's league competition.

The EPL has over the years entrenched itself into the very fabric of the Nigerian society that it is now more fashionable to be a fan of one the Big Four (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United) than be an avid supporter of the Super Eagles of Nigeria whose fortunes over time has declined sharply from its glory days- Tunisia 94 and Atlanta 96. As the stock of Nigeria's millionaire footballers have continued to plummet that of the Premiership has continued to rise thereby becoming the defacto football event in the country.

Therefore by the mere principle of substitution, the EPL has been able to grip the hearts of soccer lovers just like the way the Super Eagles did in their heyday. Whenever there is a hot league fixture it's a sure thing that streets will stand still for the duration of the match. Such is the popularity of the Premiership where millions will leave everything they are doing to watch some good ole' football.

The opening week of the premiership is one of those days where every other programme on TV fades to the background. TV shows that coincide with the Premiership are usually neglected by millions, who will rather watch their favourite team slug it out for 3 points. This is a scenario that had occurred for over some time now so even the most seasoned gambler would have put his money on the Premiership stealing the show once again. Well this was not the case this time as around.

As this season's EPL kicked off, many expectedly rushed to watch the beginning of another nerve-wracking 6 months of near misses, brilliant goals and agonizing defeats. But when it was time for MTN Project Fame West Africa to be on air many of these soccer crazy fanatics flipped their remote to see which contestants were going to get evicted.

Surprised? No need to be! Now in its third season, MTN Project Fame has quietly but steadily gone on to become one of Nigeria's most watched shows. Attracting over 50 million viewers across the sub- continent, PFWA has become so popular that it vies for attention with football matches, a move that most TV pundits couldn't dare think of. Of course PF isn't the first music competition that makes the bold statement of taking wannabes and transforming them into superstars. Several have been on this worn path but the hallmark that distinguishes Project Fame from the litter is in its format which is the underlying reason why it attracts millions.
Every day people get to watch the contestants in the Academy through 30 minute episodes shown all over the nation. This gives the viewer a sort of bird's eye view on the happenings in the Project Fame Academy which makes them feel closer. Much as how entertaining footballers are on the pitch I sincerely don't thin people will like to see them on a daily basis talking about football tactics. But with PF you get to see how the contestants grow and learn the intricacies of music- think of it as a musical version of Big Brother.

As for the roller coaster of emotions that watching football can give you, Project Fame can also equal that. Soccer viewers grow grey hairs whenever their team grabs a late winner or gets defeated by a lowly club side. Such a similar experience is faced by Project Fame fans whenever their favourite contestant gives a good performance or is eliminated. Soccer is a cauldron of so many extreme emotions so also is PF. At any moment you can be taken from ecstatic to sad in just a matter of seconds depending on the success of your contestant.

And in the aspect of audience participation, feedback is high up there with the numbers the EPL can boast of. EPL is just a weekend thing so it's safe to say that audience participation in terms of sending in text messages to predict the winner of the match (and match betting only happens on Saturdays and Sundays). But audience participation in regards to Project Fame is a daily thing as a high number of people send in texts to encourage the contestants and vote for their favourite contestants. With that scenario it is safe to say that Project Fame involves a whole lot of people than any other platform on TV right now.

As this season's EPL continues to progress expect the third season of Project Fame to compete with it. With so much drama coming, it won't be surprising for for the music competition to even overshadow it a times. Am sure the folks behind the Premiership will be happy that Project Fame runs for only three months and not six. If it were, music might just become our new sport.


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