As millions of soccer enthusiasts continue to endure a blackout of Professional Soccer League (PSL) matches on national television, the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is pinning its hopes on a review of sports broadcasting legislation to enable it to show matches again.
The broadcaster is hopeful the impasse between itself and the MultiChoice-owned pay-channel SuperSport over broadcast rights could be resolved by the Independent Communications Authority (Icasa) reviewing regulations governing sports broadcasting.
Icasa is analysing submissions from the SABC, PSL and SuperSport in response to the Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations putting national sports broadcasting interests above profits.
According to SABC acting chief operations officer Craig van Rooyen, at the core of the standoff between the public broadcaster and SuperSport was that the latter expected the SABC to pay SuperSport R280 million for 144 matches a year over five years.
Van Rooyen said the SABC had to end negotiations with SuperSport without clinching a deal “because the SuperSport offer is not commercially viable”.
“To salvage the deal, the only option left is for SuperSport to come back with a more lucrative offer. The SABC incurred R550 million losses in sport in the past financial year and the trend cannot continue.
“As a company, we fall under the Companies Act and the board has passed a resolution that the SABC should not incur any further shortfalls, following overall losses, which ran into R1.3 billion, over the last five years. No responsible executive will want to be party to loss-making,” added Van Rooyen.
He said what compounded the problems in negotiations between the SABC and SuperSport was that they were not privy to SuperSport’s cost arrangements with the PSL.
This prevented them from having an informed view into what goes into the costing for broadcast rights, which led them to approach Icasa for sports rights negotiations to be conducted in a more transparent environment.
“I am hopeful the Icasa regulations will make it possible for the national broadcaster to get access to rights in a fair manner. At the moment, it is like an auction, which is about selling to the highest bidder, with only those with deep pockets benefitting.”