DStv’s SuperSport hauled to the Competition Commission

The SABC has lodged a Competition Commission complaint against MultiChoice’s sports broadcasting division, SuperSport.

“The SABC can confirm that the Corporation has lodged a complaint with the Competition Commission,” SABC communications head Ndindi Cola said in an emailed statement.

“At this stage the matter is handled in that platform and we are not commenting further in the public space”.

TechCentral reported that the complaint is over SuperSport’s sub-licensing restrictions, which block the SABC from showing matches on satellite and online streaming services.

The SABC Sport channel is available on eMedia’s free-to-view satellite TV service Openview, the TelkomONE online streaming platform, and digital terrestrial television.

According to the report, the SABC also complained about various sports associations’ role in helping SuperSport maintain its market dominance.

The complaint reportedly includes SA Rugby, the Premier Soccer League, and soccer clubs.

It accused SuperSport of anti-competitive and exclusionary behaviour and asked for the Commission to impose punitive fines.

MultiChoice has faced much regulatory scrutiny in South Africa, especially for its dominance in sports broadcasting.

In 2019, the Commission announced it would not prosecute MultiChoice and SuperSport for alleged abuses of dominance.

Instead, it recommended regulatory interventions, laying the responsibility at the feet of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).

The Competition Commission warned at the time that it foresees potential market failure in subscription TV due to several potential factors:

  • The highly concentrated nature of the subscription TV market in South Africa
  • High barriers to entry
  • A lack of credible competition for premium sports rights
  • Excessively lengthy and exclusive contracts awarded to MultiChoice
  • A lack of alternative pay-TV options

In August 2020, the Commission announced it is investigating MultiChoice’s deal with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to integrate the streaming services into its DStv Explora decoder.

Icasa announced in May 2022 that it would reboot its Subscription Broadcasting Services Market inquiry.

It appears to have taken MultiChoice’s submission to heart where the broadcaster warned Icasa that it faces an existential threat from major international streaming providers.

Icasa had launched the inquiry in 2016 and published its findings in April 2019.

It concluded that MultiChoice has a dominant position in South Africa’s subscription broadcasting market and proposed several remedies. This included:

  • Unbundling sports rights
  • Splitting content rights with more than one broadcaster
  • Limiting the number of Hollywood studios a broadcaster may have exclusive agreements with
  • Decoder interoperability with multiple satellite services

MultiChoice repeatedly warned that over-regulating it would put it at a substantial disadvantage to major international players entering the market like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney.

It took legal action against Icasa in 2019 over having to give up its major competitive edge — exclusive sports rights.

In addition to scrutiny from the industry regulator and competition authorities, MultiChoice is also facing pressure from South Africa’s ruling party.

In its discussion document released ahead of its July 2022 policy conference, the ANC proposed that the SABC must carry all sports of national interest.

However, whereas DStv must raise funding to acquire sports rights by turning a profit through subscription fees and advertising revenue, the ANC proposes that the SABC be a fiscus-funded public broadcaster.

MyBroadband contacted the Competition Commission and MultiChoice for comment. Neither responded by the time of publication.

Update: As of 13:25 on Friday, 8 July, MultiChoice had not yet received the complaint.

“In response to your questions, I confirm that we have not yet received the complaint that you refer to,” a MultiChoice spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“Should we receive such a complaint, we shall, as always, cooperate fully with the authorities in regard thereto.”

Now read: DStv’s big price hike problem

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DStv’s SuperSport hauled to the Competition Commission