Saturday, August 3, 2019

Premier Soccer League slams SABC over deliberate soccer 'blackout'; reveals millions of viewers won't see any Absa Premiership matches on the public broadcaster that wanted a 96% discount from SuperSport for rights.

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) on Saturday afternoon slammed the beleaguered South African public broadcaster which it blamed for a deliberate broadcast "blackout" of matches that it said the SABC planned, when the PSL revealed that the broadcaster won't be showing any Absa Premiership PSL soccer matches on the public broadcaster.

The SABC has remained silent this past week when asked multiple times whether and what Absa Premiership matches it would broadcast, with millions of South African viewers left without broadcast access.

In a statement on Saturday afternoon on its website the PSL revealed that it discovered that the SABC won't be showing any of the opening round matches of the Absa Premiership this weekend starting on Saturday.

The PSL season starts on Saturday afternoon with Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United playing a match in the Tshwane Derby at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville at 15:00. On Tuesday Bidvest Wits plays against Baroka FC in Johannesburg, and Highlands Park will play against Maritzburg United in KwaZulu-Natal on Friday.

The PSL says it only discovered the broadcast "blackout" when it was brought to its attention on Friday by SuperSport as the broadcast rights holder.

"South African followers will not find the PSL football matches on the free-to-air television and radio channels of the SABC," the PSL revealed in its statement.

"This was brought to the PSL's attention yesterday, 2 August 2019 by SuperSport, the broadcast rights holder. Up until the beginning of this week we were made to believe the final bits were being ironed out towards yet another exciting season that the majority consume on free-to-air television provided by the SABC."

"In hindsight, we should have made more of the question by a SABC journalist after the board of governors meeting 2 days ago, on Thursday 1 August 2019, when he revealed that there was no scheduling of weekend matches to be broadcast by the SABC."

"Knowing what we know now, it is evident that the SABC had already prepared for a 'blackout'. According to SuperSport, the SABC proposal is tantamount to discounting the PSL rights by 96%. This would be unacceptable," the PSL said.

"Upon receiving a letter from SuperSport about the situation, Dr Irvin Khoza, PSL chairperson, immediately wrote an urgent letter to the minister of communication and minister of sports, arts and culture. In the letters he stated to the ministers that the challenges being faced have legal, public and political implications."

"In addressing this matter, it is maybe time that the nation accept that the SABC is incapable of meeting its requirements since a 'blackout' to the majority of people who consume their football through free-to-air television and radio is unacceptable going forward," the PSL says in its statement.

Earlier in 2019 the SABC failed to show the Banyana Banyana soccer matches at this year's Women's Soccer World Cup and the SABC also failed to broadcast the 2019 Two Oceans Marathon.

The SABC failed to broadcast Bafana Bafana's Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers‚ and there is no deal in place between SABC and the South African Football Association (Safa) before Bafana Bafana embarks on qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2022 Qatar World Cup in the coming months.

In a terse statement from the SABC issued on Saturday afternoon at 14:10 by SABC spokesperson Vuyo Mthembu after the PSL's shocking revelation, the SABC admitted that "no agreement was reached between the SABC and SuperSport on the broadcast of PSL matches". 

"The SABC regrets to announce that no sublicense agreement was reached with SuperSport in respect to the broadcast of matches of the new PSL season. The SABC was expected to pay SuperSport R280 million for 144 matches per year for a period of five years, and during that period, the SABC would have made revenue of only R9.8 million per year."

"This would not have been a commercially viable agreement for the SABC. Over the last five years the public broadcaster has incurred a loss of R1.3 billion in relation to the broadcast of PSL matches and a decision has been taken that any agreement entered into, should be financially sound and sustainable for the business, ensuring that there is return on investment for the organisation," the SABC said.

In the statement, Dr Craig van Rooyen, the SABC’s acting chief operations officer (COO) said that "the SABC would like to apologise to all South Africans. However, for the financial sustainability of the SABC, we will not continue with deals that are not commercially viable".

The SABC continues to be blamed for constantly trying to negotiate and secure sports contracts last-minute instead of further in advance.

When the broadcaster secures sports rights at short notice although tournaments and sports events are planned far in advance, the SABC doesn't have time to market and publicise it, doesn't have time to place and show it on TV schedules, and the SABC's airtime and ad sales division is unable to sell commercials and sponsorships which leads to the SABC not being able to monetise sports content.