Openview hauls DStv owner to court over Rugby World Cup rights

Openview owner eMedia has announced in full-page advertisements in the Sunday Times, Rapport, and City Press that it has taken legal action over its dispute with MultiChoice about broadcasting rights for the Rugby World Cup.

This comes after MultiChoice’s SuperSport and the SABC reached a deal reportedly valued at around $3 million (R57 million) to broadcast 16 Rugby World Cup matches live — including all the Springboks’ games.

However, the deal prohibited the SABC from broadcasting the games on eMedia’s satellite TV platform, Openview.

The SABC has called the restriction “anti-competitive” and “irrational”.

Openview has also said the limitation is “overtly anti-competitive” that is “nothing short of domination”.

It published an open letter at the beginning of last month addressed to several MultiChoice executives, trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel, sports minister Zizi Kodwa, communications minister Mondli Gungubele, and competition commissioner Doris Tshepe.

Now, it has taken out full-page ads in South Africa’s Sunday papers with a poem — in English and Afrikaans — announcing that it has taken MultiChoice to court.

“We are in receipt of the application served on us by Media,” MultiChoice said in an emailed statement on Sunday.

“We consider the application to be without merit and have notified eMedia of our intention to oppose it.”

According to the publications’ latest rate cards, a full-page advertisement in the Sunday Times is well over a million rand. It’s over R272,000 in the City Press, and R450,000 in Rapport.

The poem is reproduced below.

South Africa,
Let’s fight the good fight..
Let’s be united..
Let’s get the rugby…
all who have SABC 2

The court is engaged,
The court will decide
digitally migrated Openview homes
will get to see the Rugby World Cup

The court will decide
Openview homes who must pay TV licences,
get to see The Rugby World Cup on SABC 2

Join us in eradicating
unfair control
in sports that should unite our Nation!

Openview Rugby World Cup rights poem — English
Openview Rugby World Cup rights poem — Afrikaans

The dispute between SuperSport and South Africa’s free-to-air broadcasters comes down to money — specifically, how much it cost MultiChoice to secure the rights for the Rugby World Cup.

The SABC reportedly initially refused to pay $2 million (R38 million) to sub-licence all seven confirmed and potential Springbok matches from MultiChoice.

Among the public broadcaster’s complaints was that it would not be able to secure advertisers at such short notice to recoup the costs.

However, a week later, South African Breweries, Hollywoodbets, and Pineapple had reportedly agreed to pay the SABC $3 million (R57 million) to help secure a deal.

The final deal included more matches but excluded eMedia’s satellite TV platform.

From MultiChoice’s perspective, eMedia is seeking a free ride to show some of the year’s most valuable South African sporting content on its platform.

eMedia has also started launching satellite pay-TV products on its existing Openview infrastructure — called Ultraview — becoming more of a direct competitor to DStv.

From Openview and the SABC’s perspectives, the South African government punted the satellite platform as an option for households to migrate to digital TV.

Openview also has no direct way of monetising the SABC channels on its platform, making it difficult to contribute towards the public broadcaster sub-licensing the rights from SuperSport.

Although Openview carries several SABC channels, it can’t place any of its own advertising on them — all advertising revenue generated by the channels goes to the public broadcaster.

This carriage deal between Openview and the SABC came after an acrimonious dispute between the companies ten years ago.

The SABC had wanted to block Openview from broadcasting its channels, as it wanted eMedia to pay for carrying them.

However, the SABC’s interdict against Openview was ultimately dismissed with costs in August 2014.

Now read: SABC reports R1.13 billion loss

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Openview hauls DStv owner to court over Rugby World Cup rights