SABC, the South African public-service broadcaster, will not be providing coverage of the upcoming test matches between the national rugby union team and the British and Irish Lions.

The free-to-air broadcaster had hoped to agree a sub-licensing deal with pay-TV operator SuperSport, which holds rights to the series in South Africa, but was unhappy with the terms offered.

It is understood SuperSport wanted SABC to show the matches on its analogue terrestrial services, and not on widely accessible channels, such as its recently launched sports channel, that are available on platforms including satellite television platform OpenView and mobile streaming service TelkomOne.

In addition, SABC would not be able to broadcast the matches live, but only on a delayed basis after the final whistle.

Gary Rathbone, SABC general manager, told News24: “As it stands, the offer they are making is that they are saying 'basically, if you sign this agreement, you will only be allowed to broadcast it on your analogue terrestrial services and not on your sport channel'.”

He argued that this was overly restrictive, particularly when SuperSport is also requiring a delayed broadcast.

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Only last week, SABC and SuperSport were involved in another rights dispute, after SuperSport announced that it had acquired rights across Africa to the final of the Caf Champions League, Africa's top soccer clubs competition, which was played on Saturday night.

SABC claimed that the Confederation of African Football had awarded exclusive rights to SuperSport in South Africa despite it having met the asking price for free-to-air rights.

It argued it was wrong to deny fans the opportunity to watch the game on a free-to-air given the appearance of South Africa's Kaizer Chiefs team in the final and the country’s current turbulent political situation.

Ultimately, an 11th-hour agreement was reached between the pair and Caf that saw SuperSport share live coverage with SABC.

The disputes between the pair come against the backdrop of SABC asking the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa to repeal rules allowing subscription broadcasting services to transmit SABC’s ‘must carry’ free-to-air channels SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 without the need for commercial agreements.

Meanwhile, it has been decided that all three of the test matches between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions will now be played in Cape Town to head off further disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The first test will take place in the city this Saturday, but Johannesburg was due to stage the second and third matches on 24 and 31 July respectively.

Jurie Roux, chief executive of SA Rugby, explained: "We now have two teams in bio-secure environments without any positive cases or anyone in isolation. To now return to the Highveld would expose the series to renewed risk. Everyone wants to see the two squads, at their strongest, play out an unforgettable series over the next three weekends and this decision gives us the best opportunity to see that happen."

The tour has already been heavily disrupted by the pandemic with players and support staff from both teams and opposition sides having tested positive for Covid-19.

Pay-TV operator Sky holds exclusive live rights to the Lions tour in the UK, with free-to-air commercial broadcaster Channel 4 to show highlights.