The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), South Africa’s free-to-air (FTA) state broadcaster, has finally concluded a last-minute deal with African heavyweight broadcasting company MultiChoice to show action from the men’s ICC Cricket World Cup.
Through a sub-licensing tie-up with MultiChoice, the owning company behind the main World Cup broadcaster in South Africa (SuperSport), unveiled late last week, SABC will show all South African games throughout the International Cricket Council's flagship men's tournament which began on October 5.
There will be nine group-stage games played by each national team, as well as a potential semi-final and final. The FTA network will also cover the closing ceremony.
However, although coverage will be available via linear television (SABC 3), the sabcsport.com online site, and SABC Plus, the deal has been structured in a way that prevents action from being shown via Openview, the FTA platform run by eMedia Investments which has a deal in place to carry the main SABC television channels, including SABC Sport.
The 2023 ICC men’s Cricket World Cup is taking place in India between October 5 and November 19, with SuperSport covering all games via a wider deal with global ICC rightsholder Star India. South Africa comfortably won their opening fixture against Sri Lanka on October 7 (Saturday).
The SABC has said the agreement enables it “to fulfill its public service broadcaster’s mandate of broadcasting sports of national interest, as well as ensuring that all cricket fans enjoy the much-anticipated spectacle."
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After initially making a statement earlier last week saying that negotiations over tournament rights had been unsuccessful, an 11th-hour agreement was eventually announced on the day the World Cup got underway.
For the previous men’s Cricket World Cup, in England in 2019, SABC also sub-licensed rights from MultiChoice and SuperSport, covering both live matches and highlights programming.
In terms of the absence of OpenView coverage, the SABC added that it “has formally lodged a complaint with the [south African] Competition Authority regarding this behavior.
The network also said that in an attempt to mitigate the absence of match action on OpenView, the SABC approached eMedia with a proposal that both parties join together to acquire tournament rights directly. However, the SABC then said that eMedia rejected this option.
OpenView’s exclusion from World Cup coverage is similar to the terms of the deal struck between the SABC and MultiChoice for the ongoing Rugby World Cup, unveiled in early September just before that tournament started. That agreement also covers SABC with the significant exception of OpenView availability.
In the last few weeks, eMedia has filed court papers in Johannesburg, and a lawsuit against MultiChoice, over the structuring of that RWC tie-up.
In a statement covering that legal claim, eMedia’s chief executive Khalik Sherrif said: “The anti-competitive action is nothing short of domination in trying to prescribe to the free-to-air partner how to use its broadcasting rights.
“We believe the action should be strongly condemned and opposed. The 3.2 million households which have been affected by the decision should voice their dissatisfaction.”
The SABC has consistently supported eMedia’s request for access to RWC matches.
Last year, MultiChoice failed in an attempt to remove eMedia’s channels from its platform, with the country's competition authorities rejecting that plea.
In terms of upcoming ICC events, meanwhile, earlier this year SuperSport retained its rights to top-tier tournaments between 2024 and 2031, with its current Star India tie-up (which began in 2016) expiring after this World Cup.