SABC unveils streaming service as part of 'key strategy' for its survival

At SABC offices across the country, more than 3 000 staff members were stunned last week when they received emails warning them of looming retrenchments, which will affect at least 600 employees.
At SABC offices across the country, more than 3 000 staff members were stunned last week when they received emails warning them of looming retrenchments, which will affect at least 600 employees.
  • The streaming service is a partnership with Telkom, which will allow the mobile operator to house the SABC's free-to-air radio and TV channels.   
  • The SABC will receive an annual carriage licence fee from Telkom and share in the advertising revenue generated on the platforms.
  • The public broadcaster says entering the streaming market is part of its key turnaround strategy aimed at ensuring its relevance and viability.


Amid a growing demand for streaming services, the SABC has entered the business with its own platform in a move it hopes will advance its digitalisation path. 

On Monday, the SABC unveiled a content streaming service in partnership with Telkom, in a five-year deal that allows the mobile operator to house the broadcaster's free-to-air radio and TV channels. 

The TelkomONE service, which is available on mobile devices, will allow users hours of SABC content, including sports, a selection international news networks, as well as 19 radio stations. 

SABC Chief Executive Madoda Mxakwe said the launch of TelkomONE was linked to the broadcaster's turnaround strategy of "enhancing revenue generation through private sector participation" and positions the company to be a sustainable entity. In recent years, the SABC has in recent years become more reliant on government funding in order to remain viable. 

"In exchange for our content...the SABC will receive an annual carriage licence fee from Telkom, and in addition will share in the advertising revenue generated on the platform," said Mxakwe.

Neither the SABC nor Telkom could reveal the financial specifics of the deal, however, which Mxakwe described as "groundbreaking".

"We believe the transition to digital broadcasting is a key strategy for the survival and relevance of the public broadcaster. As we migrate to digital broadcasting, the SABC will leverage all the online platforms to allow consumers to access content and services anywhere," said Mxakwe.

Mxakwe added: "We do not look at this as a transactional deal, but a mutually beneficially partnership to ensure that we can fulfil our mandate.

"Our five-year agreement with Telkom will see the SABC provide its content through Telkom channels for streaming to the end-user...the partnership is part of the SABC's overall strategy of becoming a competitive multi-channel public platform content provider."

As the video-on-demand industry, which is largely led by Netflix, continues to take hold in the country, access to reliable and affordable broadband remains the biggest challenge faced by consumers, something which may hinder the full potential of digitalisation. Users outside large metropolitan areas have limited access to high-speed data services, which many mobile communication networks have blamed on spectrum availability.

Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko highlighted the company's capital investment in improving network reliability, saying the company, which is partly owned by the state, was on average spending up to R9 billion a year  to expand its network  systems across the country, and had started to 5G trials.

Pay-TV service provider, MultiChoice, is offering the Showmax streaming service, which shows a mixture of the channels production and international content.

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