ANC eyes TV sports rights and pay TV in SA

2012-06-19 13:40

South Africa’s ruling ANC party has its eye on TV sports rights as well as the lucrative pay TV sector.

The pay TV arena in South Africa is currently dominated by MultiChoice’s DStv and M-Net as well as the more recent entrant TopTV.

With the SABC set to launch its own 24-hour SABC Sport TV channel as one of 15 new TV channels in addition to the current SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3 offering in the move to digital terrestrial television (DTT), the ANC is getting ready to talk about TV sports rights as well as pay TV competition in South Africa.

TV sports rights to the most watched and most lucrative local and international sport events – which DStv, M-Net and SuperSport have sewn up over many years – will be coming under the spotlight next week at the ANC’s policy conference taking place from 26 June at Gallagher Estate in Midrand.

The ANC in its Communications Policy Discussion document drafted for the upcoming policy conference, says “there is a need to relook at the behaviour of the dominant players, access to premium content, including sports rights, and access to critical infrastructure by the competitors in this sector, to enable the entry of new pay TV services during the digital migration process, and new free-to-air players after the switch-over in 2015”.

Postponed process
Meanwhile, broadcasters such as M-Net and have complained numerous times over the past few years to the broadcasting industry regulator, the Independent Broadcasting Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), about the government’s long-delayed and constantly postponed digital migration process.

The broadcasters, which have spent millions of rands over the past few years and will carry a heavy burden due to the switch-over when they’re required to start broadcasting multiple new TV channels which will lead to further audience fragmentation, have implored Icasa not to license new TV stations or pay TV operators until the digital migration process is complete.

They argue that if new TV entrants are licensed in both free-to-air and the pay TV market, it will create an impossible situation within South Africa’s TV industry where not enough advertising and revenue in the existing limited advertising stream would be available to maintain commercial services.

Both and M-Net, similar to the SABC, will expand their number of TV channels which won’t immediately be seen by millions of viewers who will have to buy decoders over a period of time.

Meanwhile, the existing broadcasters are complaining that the digital broadcasting frequency allocation under the DTT process will see their part of the available spectrum decreasing – while it is already not sufficient.

Besides TopTV, none of the pay TV operators who were awarded pay TV licences in South Africa – e.Sat, Walking on Water or Shenzhen Media SA (formerly Super 5 Media and Telkom Media) have started commercial pay TV services.

‘Limited consumer choice’

The ANC is now going to discuss “limited consumer choice due to limited competition in the telecoms and broadcasting markets, especially the pay TV market.”

The ANC’s discussion document says Icasa’s regulation of South Africa’s pay TV market “has not produced the desired competition”.

The ANC also wants larger local content requirements for South Africa’s public broadcaster, saying in the document that a new broadcasting policy should “fast-track the local content development industry and that a review of local content quotas must be aligned to this strategy.

This should culminate in a new, forward-looking broadcasting policy to coincide with switch-over by 2015.

“The public broadcasting system should not be allowed to lag behind the commercial sector in terms of technological innovations,” says the document about the SABC.

“Any future strategy of the SABC must position the broadcaster as a leader in the uptake and use of new technologies, including mobile television and internet protocol television.”

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