Sport in line for FTA TV boost in South Africa
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, the country's communications regulator, has launched a draft bill that would ensure more major sporting events are shown on free-to-air television.
If passed, the proposed Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations 2018 would have major implications for MultiChoice, the multi-platform pay-television operator that is the dominant player in the market, with its sports service SuperSport holding premium rights to soccer, rugby union and cricket, in particular.
It would also hit domestic governing bodies, which rely on the larger rights fees SuperSport is able to pay for exclusivity.
The bill, ICASA said, is in line with the Electronic Communication Act, which states: "Subscription broadcasting services may not acquire exclusive rights that prevent or hinder the free-to-air broadcasting of national sporting events."
The regulator said these regulations will "advance equality and human dignity through access to sport of national interest to all citizens."
As part of its draft regulations, ICASA listed many popular sporting events which must be broadcast live by a free-to-air service such as public-service broadcaster SABC. These include:
- Summer Olympic Games
- Fifa World Cup
- Rugby World Cup
- ICC Cricket World Cup
- Africa Cup of Nations
- ICC T20 Cricket World Championships
- National netball
- Commonwealth Games
- IAAF World Athletics Championships.
If a free-to-air channel cannot acquire the sporting rights for these events, subscription service broadcasters, such as SuperSport, would be able to bid for the rights on a non-exclusive basis.
The proposed regulations also require free-to-air and subscription services to broadcast at least two minority sporting codes like golf, tennis, martial arts, basketball, squash and motor sport.
However, the issue is complicated by the fact that SABC is effectively bankrupt. The broadcaster is embroiled a long-running dispute with the South African Football Association over the value of national team rights.
SuperSport presently spends around R2 billion ($144 million) per year on sports rights.
The bill remains open for public consultation until 4 February. After all feedback has been received, both ICASA and the government will work together to decide how viable implementation would be.
Meanwhile, sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to add more than 16 million pay-TV subscribers between 2018 and 2024 to take its total to 45.63 million, according to the Sub-Saharan Africa Pay TV Forecasts report.
Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research, said: “Subscriber numbers will climb by 61 per cent over this period, but pay-TV revenues will rise by only 42 per cent – indicating lower ARPUs. Pay-TV revenues will reach $7.72 billion by 2024, up by $2.3 billion on 2018.”
Three groups accounted for 93 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s pay-TV subscribers in 2018, although this proportion is set to fall to 89 per cent by 2024.
Multichoice had 14.34 million subscribers across satellite TV platform DStv and DTT platform GOtv at the end of 2018, and this is forecast to rise to 19.37 million by 2024.
France’s Vivendi had 4.01 million subscribers to its Canal Plus satellite TV platform and Easy TV DTT platform at the end of 2018, a figure expected to climb to 6.21 million by 2024, while StarTimes looks set for the strongest growth, up from 7.75 million subs at the end of 2018 to 14.85 million by 2024.