DStv’s SuperSport “breaking the law” — Openview launches fresh court fight

eMedia has filed fresh court papers against MultiChoice’s SuperSport over its sub-licensing restrictions prohibiting the SABC from broadcasting the Rugby and Cricket World Cup on Openview.

This comes after the High Court of Johannesburg struck eMedia’s previous urgent application off the roll and ordered it to pay MultiChoice’s costs.

The court ruled it could not determine the merits of the case on an urgent basis.

Openview’s owner contends that MultiChoice’s restrictions on the SABC remain unlawful.

“eMedia is persisting in its application against MultiChoice and SuperSport in the interest of the hundreds of thousands of viewers that rely on Openview for purposes of accessing the SABC’s Channels,” eMedia stated.

“[These viewers] are being precluded from viewing the World Cup Rugby matches because of the restriction imposed by SuperSport.”

Openview is a free-to-view satellite TV platform owned by eMedia. Viewers need only buy a decoder and install a dish antenna to access the service — no monthly subscription is required.

MultiChoice, which owns DStv and SuperSport, licensed the exclusive rights to broadcast the Rugby and Cricket World Cups in South Africa.

The matches would have been exclusive to DStv Premium had MultiChoice not struck a sub-licensing deal with another broadcaster.

It reached a last-minute agreement with South Africa’s public broadcaster, the SABC, to broadcast 16 matches live, including every Springboks game.

However, the agreement explicitly blocked the SABC from airing the games on third-party platforms like the eMedia-owned Openview.

The SABC and Openview have said MultiChoice’s restriction is anti-competitive.

MultiChoice SA CEO Marc Jury denied this accusation in their court papers, saying nothing prevented eMedia and the SABC from bidding on sports broadcasting rights.

Jury said SuperSport paid a substantial sum to secure the exclusive broadcasting rights for the Rugby World Cup.

Exclusive rights to sports like rugby and cricket increase DStv Premium’s value to subscribers.

Jury explained it would be commercially imprudent not to attempt to recoup portions of the associated costs in exchange for giving up the exclusivity it paid for.

He also said that if MultiChoice allowed the SABC to broadcast the matches on Openview — a competitor to DStv — it would change the terms of the deal. Essentially, MultiChoice would have to increase the price.

eMedia legal affairs executive Philippa Rafferty told MyBroadband that this argument by MultiChoice is a red herring.

Rafferty said the argument that the SABC needs to pay more to show the matches on Openview doesn’t make sense because there is already no exclusivity in the rights after the sub-licensing deal.

“SABC is paying for free-to-air rights, and the rugby should be available on all free-to-air platforms,” Rafferty stated.

Jury warned that if eMedia’s legal challenge succeeded, SuperSport would have no choice but to cancel its World Cup sub-licensing deals with the SABC.

They would then have to renegotiate a deal that includes airing the games on all third-party platforms broadcasting the SABC’s channels.

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DStv’s SuperSport “breaking the law” — Openview launches fresh court fight