Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Africa's 2014 FIFA World Cup TV rights drama: MultiChoice Africa on why it suddenly cut the continent's free-to-air (FTA) broadcasters.

MultiChoice Africa which has blacked out the TV signals of several free-to-air (FTA) public broadcasters on its DStv satellite pay-TV platform in several African countries from Zimbabwe to Namibia since the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, tells TV with Thinus that it must be done.

"SuperSport is the rights holder for the pay-TV platforms - both for satellite and digital terrestrial television (DTT) and hence 2014 World Cup games are available on the SuperSport channels on DStv and the SuperSport Select channels on GOtv," says MultiChoice Africa.

MultiChoice Africa pulled various TV channels like the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) from DStv at short notice although these broadcasters did secure the official rights to show the 64 matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on their TV channels.

This made it impossible for DStv subscribers to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup matches which started at the end of last week on these channels on DStv, with viewers in these countries who could only watch it on the terrestrial signals of these broadcasters.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in South Africa on DStv didn't go dark - the 2014 World Cup matches shown on SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 are broadcast on these channels although the SABC is also a (FTA) broadcaster and which acquired the FTA rights, similar to other African broadcasters which are blacked out.

Asked why this is the case, MultiChoice tells TV with Thinus that "South Africa is viewed differently by FIFA, as it is not a member of the AUB (Rest of Africa) and BON (Nigeria), where the FIFA agreements with those associations preclude carriage on pay-TV platforms that do not have rights".

"SuperSport has in fact taken a sub- licence from the SABC in South Africa alone, for 2014 FIFA World Cup. Therefore, SABC 2014 FIFA World Cup content may be carried by MultiChoice".

Meanwhile Africa's public broadcasters blacked-out on DStv were not happy. NBC's director-general Albertus Oachamub said in a television interview that MultiChoice Africa informed the broadcaster "just a couple of hours before we were to go live with our broadcast".

"It makes one wonder what the real reasons were, what the real motives are behind such a last minute announcement. We have had lots of run-ins in recent times with MultiChoice. Therefore I'm saying that a last minute announcement like that, makes one wonder if it is really, genuinely for the reasons in the letter that they have sent," said Albertus Oachamub.

MultiChoice Africa tells TV with Thinus that the rights are sold by FIFA in various packages to different platforms.

"Many of the FTA broadcasters in Africa, including ZBC and NBC bought the FTA rights packages - which means they have the rights to show matches on their FTA signal, whether on a FTA digital platform or on analogue".

"FIFA issued a directive that there would be a blanket ban on the broadcasting of FTA channels broadcasting matches licensed to FTA channels by pay-TV operators during the 2014 World Cup".

"As such MultiChoice was forced to comply with this directive and blocked out the games on the FTA channels".

"However MultiChoice went back and negotiated with FIFA and was granted a special reprieve lifting the restriction on the broadcasting of the matches on the FTA channels".

"Hence, all the games are now available on the DStv and GOtv platforms. MultiChoice is compelled to follow any conditions or directives in relation to broadcast rights that may be imposed by the rights owners," says MultiChoice Africa.