UK pay-TV heavyweight Sky Sports has secured the rights to the 2023 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), African soccer’s biennial international tournament, after striking a deal with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) governing body.
Under the deal, Sky will show all 52 games from the tournament, which runs from January 13 to February 11, having been postponed from mid-2023 due to adverse weather conditions in host country Ivory Coast.
Sky Sports’ main soccer-focused channel Sky Sports Football, as well as Sky Sports Mix, a variety sports channel available to those with Sky TV but without the sports package, will be the UK TV home of the competition, with its matches also available for streaming on Sky’s NOW TV service.
The Sky deal for the UK puts an end to the controversy surrounding the late distribution of rights to major soccer markets by both the CAF and regional AFCON rights holders.
While a deal with Scandinavian streaming service Viaplay was announced on January 3, a deal for South Africa and the sub-Saharan Africa block of 46 countries, many of which will be represented at the tournament, was harder to secure.
Togo-based satellite TV network New World TV acquired the rights to all CAF competitions in sub-Saharan Africa for the next three years but was initially unable to agree a sub-licensing deal with South African heavyweight Multichoice, which broadcasts a major suite of sports across the continent.
Multichoice had broadcast every previous edition of the competition since 1992, and the inability of the broadcaster to secure the rights to the 2023 edition was a major blow.
In the end, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), and sub-Saharan Africa TV operator StarTimes were both able to secure sublicenses for the tournament before it began.
In South Africa, matches will be aired live on SABC 1, SABC 3, SABC Sports Channel, and SABC radio stations. SABC Plus and sabcsport.com will also offer free live streaming of all the games, as well as delayed coverage.
StarTimes meanwhile will show every game from the tournament exclusively on its Sports Premium, Sports Life, and Beta Sports channels.
Although a deal has now been agreed at this late stage, New World TV still holds the rights to the tournament across Africa for its next edition in 2025, meaning that there is potential for further controversy down the line should the same events be repeated.