Saturday, July 6, 2024

SABC backtracks on promises to broadcast Springbok Test rugby, cites ongoing Competition Appeal Court case over SuperSport sublicensing rights.

by Thinus Ferreira

The South African public broadcaster has abruptly backtracked on public promises and a signed agreement from a week ago to broadcast the upcoming Springbok Tests today on 6 July and on 13 July between South Africa's national rugby team and Ireland.

On Friday night, the SABC suddenly cited an ongoing case before South Africa's Competition Appeal Court between MultiChoice on the one side, and the SABC and eMedia on the other side, over the contentious sublicensing of sports rights for breaking its promise and previously announced deal with MultiChoice and SuperSport.

The SABC in a statement on Friday night said that it is going back on its promises of showing these two rugby test matches due to the legal case over sublicensing rights that is ongoing. 

A week ago the SABC CEO Nomsa Chabeli said that SuperSport and the SABC were pleased to announced that the public broadcaster will broadcast the ICC T20 Men’s World Cup final live, as well as two Springbok test matches on a delayed basis.

Nomsa Chabeli said that the "SABC has a pivotal role to inspire and build national pride and patriotism amongst citizens, and this agreement is one of the many initiatives that the organisation has been working hard on to ensure that citizens participate in major historic country moments".

According to Nomsa Chabeli the SABC was "excited that we have clinched a deal for two Springbok test matches to be broadcast on Saturday 6 July and Saturday 13 July  nd this is testament to our commitment to inclusivity and ensuring that our diverse audiences’ needs are catered for".

On Friday night Mmoni Seapolelo, SABC spokesperson, in a statement said the "SABC regrets that it will no longer be able to broadcast the Springbok Inbound test matches against Ireland on Saturday 6 July and Saturday 13 July as previously communicated".

"This decision follows the recent urgent litigation at the Competition Appeal Court over the broadcast rights to the  test matches which necessitated the SABC to review its decision to continue with the sublicense agreement concluded with MultiChoice."

According to the SABC, the broadcaster "will always strive to achieve its sports broadcast mandate without compromising its commercial objectives".

On Friday the SABC didn't say why it cancelled the deal with SuperSport and how this broken broadcast promise breaks its "testament to our commitment to inclusivity and ensuring that our diverse audiences' needs are catered for".

After the SABC's statement, MultiChoice and SuperSport then sent out a statement to the media late on Friday night.

"MultiChoice notes the decision by the SABC to terminate the sublicensing agreement signed with SuperSport, which would have allowed them to broadcast the Springbok test matches against Ireland, starting Saturday at Loftus Versfeld," MultiChoice said.

"Whilst the public broadcaster's decision is regrettable, MultiChoice fully respects and accepts the decision. MultiChoice will continue engaging with the SABC in seeking a working relationship that would benefit both viewers and sports bodies."

The sublicensing deal that the SABC signed with MultiChoice very likely violated the Competition Tribunal's ruling that states that for the time being, sports content acquired by the SABC from SuperSport can't be blocked out when shown on the SABC's TV channels on eMedia's Openview satellite service.

In its sublicensing agreements with MultiChoice and SuperSport, the SABC agreed that it would show old filler content on its SABC TV channels on Openview, while the version of the SABC's digital terrestrial TV channels, and the version of the SABC TV channels carried on MultiChoice's DStv, show the SuperSport-acquired content.

The SABC also agreed in the deals that it wouldn't show SuperSport sublicensed content on its own SABC+ video streaming service.

The Competition Tribunal in its ruling said that "MultiChoice, including its subsidiary SuperSport, and the SABC are interdicted from implementing and enforcing any restriction in sublicensing agreements entered into between them."

"MultiChoice, including its subsidiary SuperSport, and the SABC are further interdicted from including restrictions which prohibit the SABC from transmitting or making available sublicensed broadcasts on platforms owned or operated by eMedia, through Openview, in future sublicensing agreements concluded between them relating to the broadcasting of sporting events."

"The Tribunal has granted eMedia interim relief pending the final determination of its complaint to the Commission, or for a period of 6 months, whichever occurs first".