The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is in a standoff with MultiChoice over the cost of sublicensing rights to broadcast potential Springbok matches from the 2023 Rugby World Cup. MultiChoice is demanding $2 million (R37.7 million) for the rights, a figure the SABC is currently unwilling to meet.
Exclusive Rights with MultiChoice
MultiChoice has the exclusive rights to air all the tournament’s matches live in South Africa. These matches will be showcased on its SuperSport Grandstand and Rugby channels, available only on the DStv Premium package. With DStv Compact Plus not broadcasting the tournament, only an estimated 1.3 million subscribers in South Africa will have access to this content.
The SABC’s aim in seeking sublicensing rights is to enable millions of its viewers, who don’t have the DStv Premium package, to watch the Springboks, the national rugby team, defend their title.
Inside Sources Speak Out
According to the Sunday Times, insiders familiar with the ongoing negotiations between the SABC and MultiChoice have revealed that the two entities have yet to reach an agreement on the cost of the rights.
“There is a stalemate as far as the money is concerned,” one source was quoted by the paper.
This source further alleged that MultiChoice is employing a tactic they’ve used in the past, trying to corner the SABC by delaying negotiations until the last minute.
“We approach them ahead of time. They wait until the last minute to start negotiations,” the insider revealed.
Another source highlighted the SABC’s financial constraints, questioning the feasibility of such an investment.
“Even if we had the $2 million, how are we going to recoup it in such a short period?” the source pondered. “We won’t get a cent out of it because between now and next weekend, you can’t get anyone to advertise.”
Urgent Board Meeting Scheduled
The SABC has scheduled an urgent board meeting for 5 September 2023 to deliberate on this matter. This isn’t the first time the public broadcaster has faced such a situation. In 2019, the SABC could only broadcast the final of the Rugby World Cup live after a last-minute agreement with MultiChoice.
Further complicating matters, the SABC’s reluctance to pay R38 million for this year’s live broadcasts follows its alleged R70 million expenditure on the Fifa World Cup in Qatar. The board has since sought a detailed explanation for this spending.
Khathu Ramukumba, the new board chair, recently informed staff of an anticipated R1-billion loss for the 2022/2023 financial year, attributing it to management issues.
While the SABC has not yet released its latest annual results, it is known that in the 2021/2022 financial year, the broadcaster paid R122 million for rights to some events from the last Olympic Games.
Should the Springboks progress through the 2023 Rugby World Cup, they could play up to seven matches. Based on MultiChoice’s current asking price, this would mean the SABC would be paying approximately $286,000 (R5.38 million) per match.
To provide context, in the 2021/2022 financial year, the SABC generated about R3.08 billion in advertising revenue across all platforms, with R1.98 billion coming from its TV division.
As the negotiations continue, South Africans await the outcome, hoping to cheer on their national team in the upcoming World Cup.