MultiChoice is taking ICASA to court over the regulator’s recent inquiry into the pay TV market.
This follows ICASA holding public hearings on the Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations, which look at how South Africans can access national sporting events and how minority and developmental sport receives exposure.
The pay TV market inquiry and sports broadcasting regulations both pose a risk for MultiChoice, as the company’s DStv and SuperSport brands often acquire exclusive broadcasting rights to major sporting events – both local and international.
The acquisition of these rights allow DStv to broadcast sporting events to subscribers, and therefore make DStv’s packages attractive to customers.
It is the non-DStv customers who are the focus of the regulator’s sports broadcasting hearings, however, as in their view national sporting events need to be broadcast to the whole country.
Forcing MultiChoice to give up exclusive sports broadcasting rights will seriously hurt DStv and its business model. If sporting events are made free-to-air or MultiChoice is forced to share its broadcasting rights, they lose a competitive edge – and subscribers may not see the point of having a DStv subscription.
Organisations like SA Rugby and SAFA have also stated that they derive large parts of their income from MultiChoice, as the company pays them for TV rights.
Earlier this year, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux told Rapport that 55% of their total income in 2018 came from broadcasting rights, while SAFA interim CEO Russell Paul said ICASA’s regulations will seriously damage soccer and other sports in the country.
Paul also vowed to fight the regulations, and the sporting bodies went so far as to say that the ICASA regulations could kill sport in the country.
ICASA’s inquiry into the pay TV market – which shares certain elements with the sports broadcasting hearings, but is a separate process by the regulator – is also troublesome for MultiChoice as it has been said to ignore competition from the likes of Netflix.
It is for this reason that MultiChoice is taking court action against ICASA.
According to a report by The Star, MultiChoice has filed papers in the North Gauteng High Court against ICASA.
MultiChoice has requested that ICASA provide evidence and information on why it views the local pay TV market as uncompetitive, and has further questioned ICASA’s definition of “video entertainment” in South Africa.
This will help it prevent changes which “will put the pay TV operator out of business”.
MultiChoice has said that ICASA does not understand the broadcast terrain and that the regulator must provide “information, evidence, and research that underpins its draft findings”, stated the report.
Once this information is provided, MultiChoice will be able to supply a comprehensive response to the regulator.
MultiChoice confirmed to MyBroadband that it has asked the courts for an intervention.
“This information will provide all stakeholders, including MultiChoice, with a full understanding of ICASA’s rationale and enable them to provide meaningful and substantive responses,” said MultiChoice.
Prior to the court action by MultiChoice, the company took steps to make sporting events in which South Africa takes part more accessible to the public.
For the 2019 Cricket World Cup, SuperSport announced that it will make all Proteas cricket matches available to all DStv subscribers – regardless of their package.
The SABC and SuperSport also announced an agreement which will allow the SABC to broadcast elements of the Cricket World Cup.