CWC 2019: SABC coverage hangs in balance

2019-05-20 15:07
An SABC cameraman (Gallo)
An SABC cameraman (Gallo)

Cape Town – Just 10 days out from the tantalising opening fixture between South Africa and host nation England, national broadcaster the SABC has not yet revealed any plans for coverage of cricket’s World Cup.

All that is known is that there have been negotiations between SuperSport - the African rights-holder and subscription-based broadcaster - and bosses at the cash-challenged parastatal, albeit without any fruits to show yet.

Time is running short for a resolution to the impasse, with most participating countries long having finalised their broadcast arrangements in terms of the crossover between pay and terrestrial television.

In Australia, for example, Fox Sports will have exclusive broader tournament satellite rights, with Nine Network offering free-to-air coverage of all Aussie matches plus the semi-finals and final.

English coverage, meanwhile, will be dominated by Sky Sports’ satellite offering, with non-subscribers having to content themselves with regular night-time highlights packages on Channel 4.

It has been traditional in the past for the SABC to accept a healthy dollop of games from SuperSport: usually all Proteas ones plus a fair sprinkling of others, as occurred at the 2015 World Cup when SABC3 screened live 30 fixtures.

While attempts to gain clarity on the negotiations from the SABC had been unsuccessful at the time of writing, SuperSport communications manager Clinton van der Berg said in a statement: “We have been involved in discussions with the SABC regarding a sub-licence of free-to-air rights to the Cricket World Cup for some time.”

He would not be drawn on information received by Sport24 that the national broadcaster had initially offered less money for 2019 coverage rights than they did four years ago for the Australia/New Zealand-staged CWC. 

“As those discussions are ongoing, we are unfortunately unable to comment on the amount of fees offered by the SABC.

“In terms of applicable regulations, we are obliged to enter into discussions with a view to concluding an agreement on reasonable commercial terms.”

Sources within the SABC say that there is “apathy and a general lack of will” among the hierarchy for cricket coverage.

The situation may be aggravated by the likelihood that their already increasingly dwindling live major sports coverage will be more heavily geared toward soccer’s Africa Cup of Nations 2019 in Egypt (June 21 to July 19), which clashes with significant portions of CWC.

Bafana Bafana will be taking part for the first time in four years after failing to crack the nod in 2017.

“Right now CWC 2019, a global tournament, is uppermost in peoples’ minds … they will be incredulous if there is no SABC coverage,” one source said.

“It is a premier tournament; the South Africans could obviously come out winners. The fact that it is happening in our winter means they have potentially got a broader TV audience for it: it is great content for winter months, and certainly radio should also be a necessity.

“But in essence very little has been heard progress-wise, and the clock is ticking down … there’s been no easy talk in the negotiations (with SuperSport) so far.”

*No information has appeared yet on the SABC website over any plans for CWC 2019 coverage, and their official TV scheduling for May 30, the crackerjack date for the England v South Africa opener at The Oval, currently doesn’t reflect space for live cricket.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing ...

Read more on:    supersport  |  sabc  |  cricket


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