Bad news for Rugby World Cup matches on Openview

The SABC will not be allowed to broadcast 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC) matches on eMedia’s satellite TV service Openview, according to an agreement reached with MultiChoice.

On Thursday, the DStv and SuperSport owner — which has bought the exclusive broadcasting and streaming rights for the tournament in South Africa — announced an agreement had been reached that will allow the SABC to broadcast 16 RWC matches.

“Following acceptance by the SABC of a proposal made by MultiChoice on 18 August 2023, it has reached an agreement in principle to sub-licence broadcast rights to the SABC for Rugby World Cup 2023,” MultiChoice said.

“A total of 16 matches may be broadcast by the SABC, including the opening ceremony and opening match, all matches that the Springboks participate in, two quarter-final matches, one semi-final, the bronze final, the final and the closing ceremony.”

The announcement followed a sub-licencing standoff over the past few weeks, which reportedly included the public broadcaster refusing to pay $2 million (R38 million) for the rights to all the confirmed pool and potential playoff games to be played by the Springboks.

In a subsequent statement on Thursday evening, the SABC confirmed it had concluded an “in principle” agreement with MultiChoice to broadcast the matches.

On TV, the matches will be shown on SABC 2, while radio coverage will also be offered through 11 SABC stations.

However, viewers who watch the SABC’s free-to-air channels via the Openview satellite TV service will not receive the games.

“This agreement will, unfortunately, exclude the OVHD platform because of the restrictive conditions that MultiChoice is placing on the sub-licensing agreement for the free-to-air rights for the RWC 2023,” the SABC said.

The broadcaster said the condition cuts off approximately 3.2 million South African households from watching the matches and labelled MultiChoice’s condition in this regard as “irrational”.

“The SABC hopes that in the interest of nation-building and social cohesion, MultiChoice will remove this restrictive condition to enable all South Africans to get behind the Boks,” the broadcaster said.

The matches that are confirmed to be available to the SABC and their kick-off dates and times are as follows:

  • France vs New Zealand — 21:15 on Friday, 8 September 2023
  • SA vs Scotland — 17:45 on Sunday, 10 September 2023
  • SA vs Romania — 15:00 on Sunday, 17 September 2023
  • SA vs Ireland — 21:00 on Saturday, 23 September 2023
  • SA vs Tonga — 21:00 on Sunday, 1 October 2023
  • Two quarter-finals — TBA (possible dates 14 and 15 October 2023)
  • One semi-final — TBA (possible dates 20 and 21 October 2023)
  • Third-place playoff (Bronze final)— 21:00 on Friday, 27 October 2023
  • Final — 21:00 on Saturday, 28 October 2023

DStv Premium will remain the only package that offers all 48 matches live in South Africa.

Alternative options for free-to-air viewers

To watch the matches, Openview subscribers will now have to access SABC 2 through a TV with a built-in digital tuner or a digital TV set-top box (STB) connected to an antenna.

Using a conventional analogue antenna will no longer work in many parts of the country, as the SABC has switched off most of its analogue transmitters.

As of July 2023, the government had installed free STBs for over 1.25 million indigent households. Another quarter of a million qualifying households remained outstanding.

For households that did not qualify for a free box, the most affordable digital STB MyBroadband could find at the time of publication was selling for R500 on Bob Shop.

The matches will also be available on the free SABC+ online streaming service. However, using that option consumes lots of data — something many South Africans who only have access to mobile broadband cannot afford.

Although it is unclear what the SABC has had to cough up for the rights, it has received support from two major sponsors.

The public broadcaster thanked broadcast partners — Hollywoodbets and South African Breweries with the Castle Lager brand — who enabled the public broadcaster to secure the rights.

An insider who previously spoke to the Sunday Times about the sub-licencing standoff said it would not be possible for the SABC to recoup the sub-licencing costs through advertising at such short notice.

The 3.2 million fewer potential households will likely significantly impact what the SABC is able to charge for ads during the matches.

Now read: Streaming the Rugby World Cup without DStv in South Africa is illegal — MultiChoice

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Bad news for Rugby World Cup matches on Openview