Friday, March 26, 2021

eMedia Investments' Openview adds SABC Sport, 19 SABC radio stations and 2 further SABC TV channels in 'ground-breaking' carriage agreement.

by Thinus Ferreira

Openview is adding the South African public broadcaster's SABC Sport channel, along with its 19 SABC radio stations, as well as a further two as-yet-unannounced SABC TV channels, to its free-to-air satellite service in a new channel carriage agreement that eMedia Investments and the SABC calls "ground-breaking".

While eMedia Investments' Openview has carried SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 for the past few years until now it has been without payment. The new, expanded channel carriage agreement will bring more content to the Openview service whilst creating a new content revenue stream for the SABC.

Notwithstanding this agreement at the platform level, the SABC's TV channels and radio stations will continue to compete for audience and advertising with the various eMedia-owned TV channels and services, similar to the way that eMedia and the SABC are currently competitors on the analogue network.

Through this channel carriage agreement that was announced on Thursday night at a media event in Hyde Park, Johannesburg and broadcast live on the eNCA and SABC News channels, the SABC is officially entering the free-to-air satellite TV market that which will supplement the SABC's channel footprint on digital terrestrial television (DTT), as well as on streaming platforms like Telkom ONE.

The SABC's channels are already carried on satellite pay-TV services like MultiChoice's DStv and StarTimes' StarSat under so-called "must-carry" regulations but in exchange for bigger universal access the broadcaster isn't getting paid for that carriage.

First among the three new SABC TV channels that will be added to Openview is SABC Sport that will launch on Openview soon on channel 124, with eMedia saying it will announce a launch date within the next month. 

In a SABC Sport channel sizzle reel shown at the event the public broadcaster teased coverage of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, as well as international soccer, South African rugby, local cricket and boxing coverage. 

SABC Sport will also be distributed simultaneously across Openview, DTT, Telkom ONE and other streaming platforms.

The other two SABC TV channels that will be announced within the next 3 months will leverage extensive SABC content and archived material and might likely include a general entertainment channel like the now-defunct SABC Encore channel that the SABC supplied to DStv as part of a carriage contract that ended.

eMedia and the SABC says in a joint statement that "Openview and the SABC believe that this new agreement will expedite digital migration from analogue-only households to digital broadcasting platforms with more compelling free-to-air channels and content".

"Together with the DTT platform, Openview provides audiences with a free high-definition (HD) alternative to both analogue terrestrial and pay satellite options."

Openview, which has grown its availability to 2.3 million TV households so far, and the SABC, say that the "ground-breaking new distribution agreement will enhance both companies in the free-to-air category of television broadcasting" and that their collaboration "signals a seismic shift in the country's broadcasting landscape".

"With this agreement, the SABC ensures that its content, in all its formats, continues to resonate with the prescripts of its public mandate, and more so in providing universal access to credible content."

"The agreement also guarantees HD broadcast quality and free access to the SABC’s television network wherever you are in South Africa. For Openview, this agreement enhances its strength in the direct-to-home (DTH) space with additional content and a solid binding collaboration with the public broadcaster."

Antonio Lee, eMedia Investments COO, says the carriage agreement "is an exciting development for both the SABC and ourselves. The agreement ushers in a new level of collaboration between a private free-to-air satellite platform and public free-to-air broadcast services".

"There is no doubt it will boost the offering of Openview and will extend the SABC’s audience reach. We can now offer our Openview audience additional quality content and access to digital broadcast radio in the widest variety of languages possible in South Africa. We hope this is the start of a stronger and more fruitful relationship between Openview and the SABC".

Ian Plaatjes, SABC COO, says "This agreement enables the SABC to grow its channel offering and reach into the digital broadcasting space with three additional HD television channels".

"The agreement also enhances the distribution of SABC radio stations to create an increased value proposition for our radio advertising inventory."