SABC locked in another desperate battle for major national sports rights

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is desperately trying to conclude negotiations with the South African Football Association (Safa) to broadcast Bafana Bafana and Banyana Banyana matches.

According to a Sunday Times report, the two organisations were unable to come to an agreement during their last round of discussions, and Safa says the public broadcaster keeps crying poverty.

“The challenge is that the SABC wants the rights, but they don’t have money,” an unnamed source said.

“That’s the paramount reason the negotiations have dragged for so long. It is on that basis the two parties have fallen out. SuperSport were prepared to come in. That’s why we are here.”

The SABC already failed to broadcast the first leg of Banyana Banyana’s Paris Olympic third-round qualifier against Tanzania on Friday, 23 February, and it won’t air the second leg at Mbombela Stadium on Tuesday.

Following the latest failed round of negotiations, Safa made a stop-gap agreement with SuperSport to air Banyana Banyana’s matches.

However, Safa CEO Lydia Monyepao says the organisation is still open to offers to conclude the deal from the public broadcaster, whose previous three-year contract expired in November 2023.

“We are still negotiating with the SABC for the free-to-air broadcast rights, and the door is not closed,” she said.

Mmone Seapolelo, acting group executive for corporate affairs and marketing at the SABC, told the Sunday Times that the company is working to secure the rights.

“In terms of the upcoming home leg, the corporation can confirm that it is doing everything in its power to secure the rights and would like to further state that the contractual negotiations between SABC and Safa are at an advanced stage to broadcast the upcoming games,” she said.

This is the third “injury time” battle for broadcasting rights that the public broadcaster has been involved in since September 2023.

Zizi Kodwa, Minister of Sports, Arts, and Culture

In September and October 2023, it was locked in negotiations with DStv-owner MultiChoice over the rights to broadcast the Cricket World Cup.

The public broadcaster submitted an offer to MultiChoice for the sub-licencing rights to broadcast the 2023 Cricket World Cup in September 2023.

“This move seeks to enhance access to premier cricket content for the masses and reaffirms the commitment to providing the best in sports entertainment to citizens, regardless of their geographic location or economic status,” it said.

It added that it was still awaiting MultiChoice’s response to its offer. However, it did not reveal how much it was willing to pay for the rights at the time.

On 3 October, MultiChoice announced that the SABC had rejected its proposal for sub-licensing broadcast rights to the Cricket World Cup.

Then, in a statement late on Thursday, 5 October 2023, the SABC revealed that it had reached a last-minute agreement with MultiChoice through continued negotiations.

It broadcasted all nine confirmed matches to be played by the Mens Proteas team and the semi-final, in which Australia knocked the team out.

In early September 2023, the two companies were discussing sub-licencing the rights to broadcast the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

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

However, following a warning from Zizi Kodwa, South Africa’s minister of sports, arts, and culture, and the SABC receiving some help from South African Breweries, Hollywoodbets, and Pineapple, the two companies struck a deal.

The R57-million deal got the public broadcaster rights for 16 live matches and knockout stage games involving the Springboks.

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SABC locked in another desperate battle for major national sports rights