The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), South Africa’s state broadcaster, has finally agreed a deal with African heavyweight broadcasting company MultiChoice to showcase all of South Africa’s games at the 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC) in France.
Sixteen games in total will be shown on SABC across the RWC, including the four to seven games defending champions South Africa could play at the tournament, which is taking place in France between September 8 (today) and October 28. The Springboks play their group-stage fixtures against Scotland, Romania, Ireland, and Tonga.
SABC did however lament the “restrictive” conditions that MultiChoice (which owns dominant pay-TV broadcaster SuperSport and holds full tournament rights) enforced on the sub-licensing contract, which have prevented the matches from being shown on the free-to-air digital platform OpenView HD.
This will exclude as many as 3.2 million South Africans from watching the games, the SABC said. The public-service free-to-air (FTA) broadcaster stated that MultiChoice’s decision was “regrettable”, adding: “SABC hopes that in the interest of nation building and social cohesion, MultiChoice will remove this restrictive condition to enable all South Africans to get behind the Boks.”
From SABC's point of view, however, the fact that any sort of deal has been reached will be a major relief. Earlier this month, SuperSport released a statement saying it was “disappointed that it has not reached an agreement with the SABC for the sub-licensing of broadcast rights to the 2023 Rugby World Cup despite SuperSport having made various proposals to the SABC on reasonable commercial terms."
SuperSport is currently only legally required to sub-license nationally important sporting events – such as South Africa games at the RWC – to FTA networks at a reasonable price.
This is a difficult definition to enforce for the SABC, which has to prove that SuperSport has not offered the rights at a reasonable cost.
Now, the SABC has eventually secured the RWC rights with the help of HollywoodBets and South African Breweries through its Castle Lager brand, both of which are broadcast partners of the company.
At the previous men’s RWC, the SABC and SuperSport only struck a last-minute sub-licensing deal for the tournament's final, in which South Africa defeated England to win their third RWC.
Even when SuperSport does strike a sub-licensing deal with the SABC, it usually only permits the FTA broadcaster to cover live sporting action on linear TV channels, as opposed to on its various satellite and digital platforms (as in this case).
In June, the SABC retained domestic free-to-air broadcast rights to English soccer’s Premier League for the 2023-24 season, which is now underway. It marks the first time the South African broadcaster has held the rights to the league since 2019.
In July, French broadcaster Canal+ announced an increase in its shareholding in the MultiChoice group up to 31.7%. If its shareholding reaches 35% then a mandatory buyout option will be put on the table for the other MultiChoice shareholders.