Rugby World Cup: SuperSport 1 – SABC 0

Rugby is in a broadcasting tug of war.

Rugby World Cup: SuperSport 1 – SABC 0

Rugby is in a broadcasting tug of war.

The love for sports and DSTV is kind of a (premium) package deal in South Africa. And if R800+ a month is too steep, the SABC had your back for the big sporting events.

But not this time.

Rugby was once a game deeply rooted in segregation but it became the opiate of the masses ever since 1995.

Yet 28 years later we are divided again. This time by our television screens.

SABC tackled out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

In a R37.7 million deal for the sub-licensing of broadcast rights to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the SABC benched themselves. 

No deal. This despite months of negotiations. And apparent “reasonable proposals”.

In an official statement, the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Zizi Kodwa has urged the SABC to reach an agreement, “I am hopeful that an agreement will be reached between SABC and SuperSport. Rugby plays a critical role in nation building and social cohesion. It is important that millions of South African can watch the Springboks continuing to lift the nation at the Rugby World Cup.”

Maybe there’s still hope. But if there’s no turn-around in this last-minute announcement, it leaves South Africans with four options:

1. You can opt for DStv Streaming from R699 p/month.
2. Pitch up at a friend’s house with your cooler box (and an extra choppie for the host).
3. Or pull up a chair at your nearest bar.

Rugby is in a tug of war. Money is king. Fans are trampled.

All costly options in a cash-strapped South Africa.

And then the fourth option, completely free.

4. Don’t watch it.

And while it’s not a favourable option it raises the question: will the support be a decimal lower than four years ago?

What pulled South Africa together during the 2019 Rugby World Cup was more than Rassie’s plan, Kolisi’s leadership, Mapimpi’s tries, and the speedo hugging the Faf of De Klerk.

It was the availability of rugby. It was everywhere. The contagious fever of green and gold infiltrated the country. Pulling in more numbers than Nelson Mandela could have ever dreamed of in 1995. And energy higher than Percy Montgomery’s 2007 torpedoes.

But now it’s champagne. Locked up in a château.

And all we wanted was an ice-cold Black Label.

The Monopoly of Sport

Back in the day when the SABC was still in its booties, it was sport who begged the broadcaster to get its 80-minutes of fame.

But seeing the advertising potential, the tables quickly turned.

In 1988 M-Net secured exclusive rights for the Currie Cup between the then Transvaal and Western Cape. 

And the rest is history. 

The SABC lost its footing and SuperSport expanded its coverage; from the 1992 Cricket World Cup to the Tri Nations and Premier Soccer League.

Is MultiChoice falling behind in the era of streaming?

World Rugby launched RugbyPass TV ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2023. A world-class streaming platform to connect rugby fans across the globe more deeply with the game they love.

The best part?

It’s free.

But my fellow South Africans, don’t get your hopes up. SuperSport has the monopoly.

It will only be available in territories where it has no deals, rights-holders or countries not showing all the matches live.

And while a VPN might be a work-around, the World Cup has now become inaccessible to millions of South Africans.

28 years later we are divided again. This time by our television screens.

Even at a time when MultiChoice is losing customers who were once DStv Premium, Compact, and Compact Plus devotees, SuperSport is still cashing in.

Rugby is in a tug of war. Money is king. Fans are trampled. 

MultiChoice recently revamped its streaming app as DStv Stream. And much like Netflix, it makes space for better personalisation based on your profile. 

Unfortunately, in typical MultiChoice style, it is an all-or-nothing approach. And if you want to watch the Springboks, you better be ready to pay R699 p/month (one stream).

In all fairness, R699 a month for 154 channels is not bad. But is it worth the price if you’re only interested in two or three channels? Just looking for weekend entertainment? 

South Africans are stretching every rand. They need flexibility. A 2023 approach. Where you can opt for one channel. Even if it’s just to watch the Rugby World Cup. 

We don’t want the French champagne. We just want a black label. In a can, dumpie or quart.

And while we’re putting in our order for flexibility, we also won’t mind a side of stability from the SABC.