My blood is sport

2012-08-25 09:28

New SuperSport boss wants us to watch sport all the time, everywhere

New SuperSport chief executive Happy Ntshingila was decidedly unhappy when I arrived for our interview – someone had tuned the TV in his new office in Randburg to a non-sports channel.

However, as soon as he had pointed the remote at the TV and set it to Supersport Blitz, he was ready.

He admits that he would watch sport 24 hours a day, seven days a week if he could, and one of his objectives is to get more and more Supersport viewers to feel the same.

“The challenge is to have the viewers involved all the time, and you don’t want to lose them. You will lose them, say, when they’re driving, but otherwise we want them to watch sport,” he says.

Ntshingila took up this post at the beginning of April, after previously being Absa’s marketing and communications head.

Absa’s extensive involvement in sport sponsorship, including of the Premier Soccer League and the Currie Cup, regularly brought him into contact with the world of sports.

And he’s mad about sport, which is a requirement for this job, he says.

Ntshingila plays a good game of golf with a handicap of 15, and earlier this year he completed his second Comrades Marathon.

He says the biggest challenge of the new job is to get more people to watch sport in high definition (HD).

“We are constantly busy improving our product, and in HD people will just enjoy it more,” he says.

Innovation is also important, and he mentions the iDrifta and Walka, both innovative means that SuperSport provides for its viewers so that they need never miss a moment of sport even if they are not near a TV.

Bringing the best sporting events, such as the recent London Olympic Games, to the viewers of course also helps to attract viewers and advertisers.

Ntshingila says what most people didn’t know was that SuperSport did not have broadcasting rights for the Games.

Those belonged to the SABC, and SuperSport had to buy a sub-licence from them.

Media rights for the Olympic Games are now worth about $3.91 billion and, according to Sports Market Intelligence, the SABC bought the South African rights for the spectacle, along with those for the 2010 Winter Games held in Vancouver in Canada, for $16 million (R132.6 million).

The 2016 Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Ntshingila says he already has his plans in place for the tender process so that the same thing does not happen again.

But he is very impressed with SuperSport’s coverage of the Games and the team they put together.

“The strategy was to ensure we give our viewers the best production and every element in the value chain is the best.”

Carl Lewis, the American sprinter who has won numerous gold medals, was part of the SuperSport team.

“We knew athletics and then also Usain Bolt was going to be big news at the Games. So who better to talk about it than Carl Lewis, an expert in that field?

“The same with the Euro 2012 broadcasts, where we got John Barnes (a former English footballer). Then the viewers know we are taking them and the sport seriously and are giving them the best,” he says.

And the viewing figures speak for themselves.

For these Games, Supersport attracted twice as many viewers as for the previous Games, Ntshingila says.

In the past two weeks, the total average number of viewers on all the Olympic channels between 9pm and 10pm reached a peak of
about 774 400.

That’s an increase of more than 600% over the number of viewers in the same time slot just before the Games.

At the conclusion of our interview, Ntshingila picks up the remote again and tunes in to the SuperSport HD channel, where the Proteas were facing off against England at Lord’s for Test cricket’s number-one spot.

“We are made for each other, this work and me – just like HD and sport,” he says.

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