DStv vs ICASA – The big SuperSport problem

SuperSport has established a monopoly over sports broadcasting rights in South Africa, and the SABC doesn’t have the resources to compete with it for the rights to broadcast high-profile sports events.

This is the view of certain industry players and many members of the TV-viewing public, and has resulted in ICASA looking to step in to “remedy” the situation.

To combat SuperSport’s dominance over sports broadcasting in South Africa, ICASA has proposed that all sports matches of national importance be available on free-to-air channels.

Currently, viewers who want to access of all the best sports events on SuperSport must subscribe to DStv Premium – at R809 per month – to receive its full bouquet of sports channels.

The Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations 2018 would ensure that high-profile sporting events in disciplines such as soccer, rugby, and cricket would be available to the general public.

ICASA argues that breaking SuperSport’s monopoly on sports is necessary based on the Electronic Communication Act, which states:

Subscription broadcasting services may not acquire exclusive rights that prevent or hinder the free-to-air broadcasting of national sporting events.

Sports bodies’ responses

In response to ICASA’s proposal, PSL chairman Irvin Khoza said that the PSL would shut down if ICASA goes through with the proposed amendment.

Khoza said that the PSL gets 80% of its revenue from SuperSport via TV rights, meaning that if it was to lose its deal with SuperSport, the PSL would enter financial ruin.

SA Football Association (SAFA) acting CEO Russell Paul echoed Khoza’s sentiments, saying that the body “vehemently opposes” the amendment.

SA Rugby and SA Cricket have also made submissions to ICASA regarding the proposal.

According to South African Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux, 55% of their revenue comes from broadcasting rights – with the lion’s share of this being contributed by SuperSport.

Expert opinion

Kate Skinner, director at media watchdog SANEF, told MyBroadband that ICASA’s proposed regulations need to be debated and investigated, including a full economic impact assessment.

“There are a lot of issues that need to be considered and balanced,” said Skinner.

“The subscription broadcasters need exclusivity for their business model to work. Also, the sporting codes rely on the money they receive from broadcast rights and generally hefty sums are paid for these rights. But also the public broadcaster needs to show matches of national importance and they can’t afford huge fees.”

Skinner added that she was unsure whether ICASA had balanced these needs against each other when proposing the amendment.

She added that ICASA needs to take into account the number of channels SABC offers, and their capabilities.

“It is important that the schedules are not changed too much because this creates problems with audiences and advertisers,” said Skinner.

Now read: The effect of Netflix on South African content

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DStv vs ICASA – The big SuperSport problem