SABC lashes out at SuperSport over ‘restrictive’ rugby rights

The SABC has hit out at MultiChoice — and its SuperSport subsidiary — for imposing conditions not acceptable to the public broadcaster for the upcoming Springbok Rugby inbound tour matches, including the British and Irish Lions tour.

As a result of these “rights restrictions”, the public broadcaster has decided not to carry the games on its free-to-air channels, it said.

“The SABC regrets to inform the public that the free-to-air broadcast of the upcoming Springbok Rugby inbound tour matches, including next month’s British and Irish Lions Tour, will not be possible due to rights restrictions imposed by SuperSport,” it said.

“The public should be aware that Springbok matches are defined as national sporting events by communications regulator Icasa and that free-to-air broadcasters are mandated by the regulator to make these events available,” it added.

“However, SuperSport has imposed restrictions on the SABC that will limit its broadcast of the inbound tours matches to SABC1, 2 and 3 but only via ‘terrestrial free to air television’ platforms. This means the broadcast and streaming of the games on SABC channels via other platforms such as Openview and via mobile … is prohibited by SuperSport.”


It said the viability of the new SABC Sports channel, which is available on platforms such as Openview and TelkomOne, is dependent on it being able to distribute simultaneously via several platforms. “The SuperSport restrictions will make this impossible,” it said.

“The restrictive imposition of unfair sub-licensing conditions by the dominant player was one of the key problems raised by the SABC (with Icasa), which Icasa has unfortunately failed to deal with in its new sports rights regulations.

“The SABC maintains that SuperSport-imposed sub-licensing restrictions are prejudicial to the SABC and its commercial partners as they limit the reach of the games to platforms decided upon by SuperSport. These restrictions also go against the spirit of the current broadcasting regulations that seek to ensure that all South Africans can access South African national sporting events, regardless of the platform or channel.”

The SABC said it asked SuperSport to remove the restrictions for the upcoming British and Irish Lions Tour, but this was rejected, it said.

“It has not been possible to reach an agreement to bring these Springbok matches to SABC screens. It is the SABC’s view that attempting to place sub-licensing limitations on which platforms the SABC can broadcast on or stream content through is anticompetitive and directly undermines the public broadcaster’s mandate to provide free access to national sporting events to all South Africans.”

Late on Friday, MultiChoice hit back at the SABC’s statement, saying the broadcaster’s rejection of the sub-licensing rights “deprives its viewers of watching the Lions Tour”.

It added: “MultiChoice does not believe that a term of the offer precluding the SABC making the content available to third parties, with whom the SABC has concluded commercial agreements, is anticompetitive. It would undermine the value of MultiChoice’s investment in acquiring the rights.”  – © 2021 NewsCentral Media

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