Mmoni Seapolelo Group Executive for Corporate Affairs and Marketing (Acting) and
Merlin Nicker- SABC Group Executive for Video Entertainment
The SABC’s content delivery obligations for nation-building and social cohesion can never be underestimated, nor can this be ignored. The total disregard of this important mandate by commercially focused entities is at the disadvantage and peril of the millions of South African citizens who heavily depend on the SABC for information. During the Rugby World Cup 2023 tournament, the SABC recorded a total of 15.5 million viewers of which 12.4 million were Adults aged 15+ despite the Corporation only being able to announce the broadcast rights on 7 September 2023, a day before the start of one of the country’s most anticipate sport spectacles.
The SABC also used its OTT streaming service, SABC Plus, to broadcast the Rugby World Cup matches. This fast-growing platform experienced a surge in new registrations of the App during the tournament resulting in over 313k registrations since September. The final saw 9.2 million minutes watched on the platform. SABC Plus has experienced significant growth since its inception 12 months ago, with over 600 registrations to date, and was recognized at the 5th Africa Tech Week Awards in May 2023, within a very short period in the market.
The use of the SABC Plus emanates from the understanding that broadcasting in the digital age requires broadening the quality and scope of the SABC’s content offering, increasing accessibility, and offering audiences value for their time.
The high number of audiences who tuned into the SABC platforms during the Rugby World Cup is indicative that SABC is the primary source of information for the majority of South African citizens. With all the external factors that always inhibit the SABC from securing the sports broadcasting rights for key sporting events timeously, the South African public should always be considered. These hurdles deter the public from easily accessing the broadcast of sports of national interest. If the SABC did not ultimately secure the broadcasting rights for the Rugby World Cup 2023, over 15 million people would not have easily accessed the tournament and witnessed this momentous and proudest moment for South Africa.
The SABC greatly appreciates the remarkable support demonstrated by key stakeholders who have raised their hands to assist the SABC in securing the rights of the Rugby World Cup 2023. The efforts were not merely about providing funding but extended to the successful delivery of the Corporation’s public service mandate of ensuring universal access by broadcasting sports of national interest.
In recent times, the SABC has faced challenging trading conditions due to the bleak domestic and global economic outlook. However, appreciation of the power of the SABC brand and its sub-brands is incredible and bears testimony to the fact that strategic partnerships yield positive spin-offs.
Sports rights are one of the biggest cost drivers for the SABC and a core genre in television broadcasting that requires regulatory intervention. It is the view of the SABC that sports regulations should enable the South African public to easily access major sporting events.
The SABC is mandated to broadcast sports programs on its channels and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) regulations formally list the sporting events which are identified as national sporting events. These events include the FIFA World Cup, IRB Rugby World Cup, ICC Cricket World Cup, African Cup of Nations, Commonwealth Games, Olympic Games, Africa Games, and the CAF Champions League final. In broadcasting these events, the SABC has a responsibility to ensure that all sports deals entered into are commercially viable in order for the SABC to be financially sustainable.
Due to the exorbitant costs of the sports rights, the SABC is not always able to fully deliver on its mandate by securing the sports broadcasting rights of the identified sports events which are declared as of national interest.
In the end, the SABC’s survival as a public service broadcaster is dependent on the support of the South African citizenry and strategic partnerships in which partners use the SABC’s content offering and packages that appeal to them.
The SABC does not exist in a vacuum or operate in isolation, but it is there to serve the millions of South Africans who depend on it for reliable news and information, with key stakeholder support. Therefore, the Corporation will continue to apply a frugal approach in delivering key sporting events to be enjoyed by all citizens.