SABC launches 24-hour sports channel

Public broadcaster SABC on Thursday night officially launched its 24-hour sports channel, promising to deliver exciting and compelling sports content via free-to-air broadcasts and online streaming.

The channel — which had its soft launch on 15 April 2021 — is now available on SABC digital TV broadcasting, Openview channel 124, and the TelkomONE streaming service.

SABC Sport General Manager Gary Rathbone said the channel’s performance to date must be commended.

“Since the channel became operational in April this year, its audience figures have been positive, with the latest TAMS figure showing a total reach of over 2 million — a 5% share of the national television market,” Rathbone said.

“On Openview alone, the channel has established itself amongst the top 10 on the bouquet, with a total reach of over 1.4 million, representing a 24% share of the Openview market.”

“This is really positive start for an exciting new sports channel that South Africans will be able to access without needing to pay a subscription,” he added.

The SABC did not reveal exactly which sports will be offered on the channel, but Rathbone said it planned to cater to broad sporting tastes.

He said this means it will offer a mix of niche and popular sports, while also balancing international and local coverage.

In addition, there would be a focus on school and women’s sports in particular.

SABC Sport General Manager Gary Rathbone speaking during the launch of the SABC Sport 24-hour channel.

The announcement of South Africa’s team for the Tokyo Olympics was the first event broadcast on the channel after this evening’s launch.

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams also attended the launch and said the SABC was now “occupying its rightful place” in the sports broadcasting space, and shared more on how her department would assist the sports channel in achieving success.

“Our responsibility as the shareholder is to make sure our people get the rightful information that they deserve,” the minister stated.

This includes ensuring proper governance at the SABC, that it gets the resources it requires and reviewing the regulatory environment to allow the SABC to compete with others that she “would not mention”.

The unmentionable competitor in question is MultiChoice, which operates DStv and dominates South African sports broadcasting through SuperSport.

As a result of its dominance, MultiChoice has been on the receiving end of a Competition Commission enquiry and prospective stringent ICASA regulations.

Now read: Most-watched TV shows in South Africa

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SABC launches 24-hour sports channel