SABC refuses to pay R38 million for Springbok World Cup games

The SABC is refusing to pay MultiChoice $2 million (R37.7 million) for the rights to broadcast all potential Springbok games from the 2023 Rugby World Cup live.

MultiChoice currently holds the exclusive rights to broadcast all the tournament’s matches live in South Africa.

These will be available on its SuperSport Grandstand and Rugby channels on the broadcaster’s most expensive DStv Premium package.

Combined with DStv Compact Plus, which won’t show the tournament, there are only about 1.3 million subscribers with this product in South Africa.

The SABC wants to sublicence the rights to show the games involving the country’s national team so that millions of its viewers who don’t have DStv Premium can watch the Springboks defend their title.

But the Sunday Times reports that three highly-placed insiders with knowledge of the standoff between the public broadcaster and MultiChoice said the pair had failed to agree on the cost of the rights after several negotiations.

“There is a stalemate as far as the money is concerned,” the paper quoted one insider as saying.

“MultiChoice is demanding $2 million. It does not look like they are going to change.”

The insider accused MultiChoice of using an old strategy where it tries to force the SABC into a corner at the last minute.

“We approach them ahead of time. They wait until the last minute to start negotiations,” they said.

A second insider said the SABC did not have the money to pay for the rights.

“Even if we had the $2 million, how are we going to recoup it in such a short period?” they asked.

“We won’t get a cent out of it because between now and next weekend, you can’t get anyone to advertise,” they stated.

The SABC is convening an urgent board meeting on Tuesday, 5 September 2023, to discuss the issue.

The public broadcaster could previously only show its viewers the final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup live after reaching a last-minute agreement with MultiChoice.

The SABC’s insistence that it cannot afford to pay R38 million to broadcast this year’s matches live comes after it allegedly spent R70 million at the Fifa World Cup in Qatar.

City Press reported in June that the board has demanded a thorough explanation for the expenditure.

New board chair Khathu Ramukumba reportedly told employees recently that the broadcaster was headed for a R1-billion loss in the 2022/2023 financial year due to poor management.

Fifa World Cup rights

The SABC has yet to publish its latest annual results, so the amount it paid for the Fifa World Cup rights is currently unknown.

In the 2021/2022 financial year, the SABC paid R122 million for the right to broadcast some events from the last Olympic Games.

If all goes well for Jacques Nienaber’s charges, the Boks will play seven games during the tournament, including a quarter-final, semi-final, and final.

At MultiChoice’s current price, the SABC will effectively pay roughly $286,000 (R5.38 million) per match.

For reference, the SABC made about R3.08 billion in advertising revenue in 2021/2022 across all its platforms, with roughly R1.98 billion coming from its TV division.

Correction: We previously mistakenly reported that the SABC’s alleged R70 million expenditure at the Fifa World Cup was linked to a trip former SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe undertook to Qatar.

The SABC stated that Mxakwe’s trip was fully sponsored by a stakeholder, and the costs associated with it were not close to the amount that is mentioned.

MyBroadband apologises unreservedly to Madoda Mxakwe and the SABC for the error.

Now read: DStv Premium prices and sports in South Africa vs 15 other African countries

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SABC refuses to pay R38 million for Springbok World Cup games