Monday, May 1, 2017

A MIND-BOGGLING CLUSTER. How South African viewers got to see the Joshua/Klitschko boxing match - and the losers and winners of this intricate sports rights bout unpacked.

It was a title fight, it was international sport, it was knock-out, must-see TV - and in South Africa viewers saw it on a channel starting with a capital "S".

No, not SuperSport but two small community TV stations called SowetoTV and 1KZN.

A very interesting part of the story of the incredible and utterly electrifying Saturday night boxing match between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko at England's national stadium was how South Africans thankfully got to see it while DStv subscribers across the rest of Africa didn't.

Cue the increasingly getting crazier sports broadcasting rights battles.

With SuperSport not having the rights to the boxing match of the year so far, DStv subscribers across Africa vented their shock and anger at MultiChoice and SuperSport on Saturday night after not being able to see the Joshua Klitschko match up.

The same almost happened to South African viewers and DStv subscribers - were it not for an utterly insane South African television first that has never happened before and which still seems so complicated and completely impossible, that it's hard to believe it really happened this way.

Follow the sheer incredulous insanity:

It turns out that two small South African (1) community TV channels somehow managed to acquire the broadcasting rights to the Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko fight from a (2) pay-TV provider competing against MultiChoice and SuperSport.

As if this wasn't eye-popping enough, this content then ended up showing on, and viewers seeing it, not on one but (3) two other competing pay-TV providers since the community channels have national carriage agreements with both.

In short:

Kagiso Media that runs community TV channels like SowetoTV and 1KZN somehow acquired the Joshua/Klitschko fight from Kwesé Sports. That then ended up being seen by viewers on DStv - but not on SuperSport - and also on StarSat, since StarSat also carries 1KZN.

Talk about the most epic cluster get-together "huh?" you've probably ever seen when it comes to sports rights in South Africa.

Of course neither Kagiso Media, SowetoTV, 1KZN, MultiChoice or StarSat issued any press release beforehand or any programming advisory to the media about the fight, that it will be shown, or where viewers and their pay-TV subscribers would be able to see it and what time.

A lot of quite random things conspired to make the Joshua/Klitschko fight broadcast in South Africa worthy of an academic dissertation when it comes to the broadcasting industry and sports rights.

Kwesé and MultiChoice are competing rivals as are Kwesé Sports and SuperSport. Under normal circumstances the Joshua/Klitschko bout that wasn't on SuperSport, shouldn't even have been seen on DStv at all.

Did Kwesé even know or do due diligence and its homework to know that the small community TV stations run by Kagiso Media it sold the boxing match rights to, is also carried on both DStv and on StarSat?

In South Africa, Econet Media and its Kwesé Sports turns out to be the biggest loser in the biggest heavyweight fight in British history, with SuperSport as the smaller loser.

But, besides Anthony Joshua as the biggest winner, there's several other big winners:
The first biggest winner is the South African viewer, getting to see a great boxing match they really in a sense shouldn't have seen, technically.

On another differentiator, when it comes to pay-TV viewers, lower-tiered subscribers on both DStv and StarSat also got access to premium upper-tier content that they won't normally have access to - another win for viewers..

The second really big winner is SowetoTV and 1KZN. SowetoTV especially got glowing praise from viewers.

Not only did SowetoTV, displaying the KFS LIVE (Kwese Free Sports) content marker in the screen corner, lure stacks of viewers (which will translate into a huge ratings bump), but those viewers also had huge positive things to say about Soweto TV.

Besides getting many first-time viewers to sample the channel - of which undoubtedly some will return - the premium content and premium sports content also gave Soweto TV (and to a smaller extent 1KZN) more brand prominence and prestige.

This was true content marketing where the acquired content marketed itself, and by proxy Soweto TV, driving viewers and sports viewers to SowetoTV.

The third winner is MultiChoice. Although the very big boxing match wasn't on SuperSport, it was still on DStv and accessible through DStv.

Although on two lesser tuned-to DStv channels, DStv still had it and showed it - it was just an issue of viewers having to flip through mostly unknown channel numbers and uncharted channel territory to find it.

The fourth winner is On Digital Media (ODM) and StarTimes Media South Africa's StarSat.

StarSat coasting in the wake like a remora next to a shark, did utterly nothing to deserve it but since it has 1KZN on its channels line-up as part of a channel carriage deal, all StarSat subscribers that wanted to, also got the ability to see the Joshua/Klitschko fight.

StarSat however didn't lift as much as a finger to get the opportunity to show this premium TV sports event, but got to bask in the knock-on effect spoils.

South African terrestrial and pay-TV viewers should be glad that (a) SowetoTV and 1KZN managed to get the rights and (b) that these channels happened to be carried nationally on MultiChoice's DStv, and also on StarSat.

One last interesting observation: The sad SABC that's basically given up on securing sports rights for almost anything and StarSat both continue to complain bitterly that sports rights are tied up exclusively by MultiChoice and SuperSport and that they can't make any inroads.

Total bullshit. A small community TV station managed to do better, and to outdo both the bedlam South African public broadcaster and StarSat.

Crazy as it sounds, SowetoTV just proved in its knockout Joshua/Klitschko acquisition, that it is possible to get certain big, premium sports rights.