Broadcast Rights

South Africa: ICASA Plans To Put An End To MultiChoice’s DStv Monopoly On Sport

The Independent Communications Authority Of South Africa (ICASA) has unveiled its Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Amendment Regulations 2018, which aim at making big sporting events accessible for free to all citizens of South Africa.

High-profile sporting events, especially for well-loved sports like soccer, cricket and rugby are currently only available to subscribers of DSTV.

In order to maintain its Supersport monopoly, MultiChoice pays exorbitant fees to acquire exclusive sports broadcast rights for regional, national, and international games.
The company’s exclusive Supersport offering is one of the most attractive differentiators of its DStv Premium service.

This could all change if ICASA’s Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Regulations becomes law.
These regulations will end MultiChoice’s monopoly on the live airing of high-profile sporting events.
According to ICASA, this is in line with the Electronic Communication Act which states that subscription broadcasters may not buy exclusive rights that prevent the free-to-air broadcasting of national sporting games.

FIFA World Cup, Rugby World Cup, ICC Cricket World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations are some of the popular sporting events that ICASA listed in its draft regulations as events which should be broadcast live by a free-to-air service such as the SABC.
The draft states that subscription service broadcasters like MultiChoice can bid for the sporting rights on a non-exclusive basis only if a free-to-air licensee, like eTV or the SABC, cannot acquire the rights for these events.

The regulations further require subscription and free-to-air and services to broadcast a minimum of two less popular sporting events like golf, basketball, tennis, squash, martial arts and motorsports.

Although more access to big sporting games is a positive development, some sporting bodies have raised concerns about the financial impact that these regulations could have.
MultiChoice currently pays a lot of money to unions and sporting bodies for exclusive broadcasting rights of their events.
The company explained that it is a known principle by regulators globally that pay-TV providers require some levels of exclusivity in order to differentiate themselves from competitors.
MultiChoice is the biggest investor in South African sport, and currently spends over $143 mil per year on sports broadcasting rights.
The SABC is technically bankrupt and at this point does not have money to spend on sports broadcasting rights.

The Draft Sports Broadcasting Services Regulations are open for comment until 4 February 2019.

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