Cape Town – Both Multiple choice and the SABC are preparing their responses to the regulations of the South African Independent Communications Authority (ICASA) that could challenge SuperSport's monopoly on broadcasting rights in the country.
The 2018 draft Broadcasting Services Regulation divides sporting events into three groups – Group A, Group B and Group C – and states that certain sports should be made available to broadcasters.
The draft states that events such as the Summer Olympics, Paralympics, Commonwealth Games, Rugby World Cup, Rugby World Cup, Cricket World Cup and international boxing should be considered "national mandatory sports events for a licensed Live coverage. "
Group B, which includes tournaments such as Super Rugby, Currie Cup and PSL, is defined as: "National sporting events offered to a licensee on a non-exclusive basis under sublicense conditions."
"Minority" sports, including ice hockey, tennis, golf, squash and gymnastics, all fall into Group C. According to the regulations, broadcasters should air at least two of sports in this category per year.
Everything paints a picture of uncertain times ahead.
SuperSport pays a lot of money to secure broadcasting rights – both locally and internationally – and in doing so has solidified its position as the only dominant players in South Africa.
Sport24 has already talked to Cricket South Africa (CSA), SA Rugby and PSL, and although it is difficult to reduce the exact numbers, the combined SuperSport business is in the billions every year.
The SABC simply can not compete financially with SuperSport and as a result, sports administrations such as CSA, SA Rugby and PSL value their relationships with SuperSport.
For example, SuperSport is responsible for 54% of the PSL's annual earnings.
While this proposed amendment could potentially challenge the strength of SuperSport, it will also sound like an alarm to sports federations that rely on SuperSport money for their own survival.
With the SABC unable to afford these rights on its own, there is a danger that the South African public may be deprived of local and international sporting events if SuperSport can not guarantee exclusive rights and the SABC can not afford them .
Initially, it was anticipated that the actual threat to the paid channel would come from digital platforms (Facebook and Google) and streaming services.
Most sports have a bidding process for their TV rights every five years, but so far there have been no digital players with a serious scream of clutter, as bandwidth and internet access in South Africa remain the obstacles in this regard.
Both Vodacom and Telkom are considered to have played the rights to PSL in 2017, but were unsuccessful.
The proposed regulations are now open for public consultation until March 15 and after all stakeholders have expressed their views, ICASA expects the regulatory review process to be finalized by the end of March.
However, it is unlikely to be that simple.
"MultiChoice noted the publication of a Government Bulletin stating that the South African Independent Communications Authority (ICASA) intends to revise the 2010 Broadcasting Services Regulations and invite interested parties to make written statements about its regulatory projects "said Joe Heshu, executive of the MultiChoice group for corporate affairs.
"Our understanding is that this process is at an early stage and will follow a public comment procedure of all stakeholders. We are reviewing these proposed regulations and will provide a comprehensive response.
"We will be participating fully to ensure that the regulations that are finally published are consistent with the applicable statutory provisions at national sporting events as set forth in Law of Electronic Communications. "
SABC, meanwhile, also confirmed Sport24 which would participate in the public consultation process.
SuperSport and SABC share an existing relationship with SuperSport by providing cricket, soccer and rugby feeds to the public broadcaster.