After failing to convince Icasa to put in place tighter measures to break MultiChoice’s monopoly on sports coverage, the SABC is now banking on competition authorities to step in as it battles to boost its revenues.

A Business Day report says MultiChoice dominates the market partly because it has exclusive contracts for high-profile rugby matches, local Premier Soccer League, the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga and the Uefa Champions League.

Updated regulations mostly maintain the status quo – sought-after rights for all platforms are sold to the highest bidder with no unbundling of rights or fair sublicensing criteria required.

The public broadcaster approached the Competition Commission last week to file a complaint against DStv’s SuperSport, arguing that the company had resorted to anti-competitive and exclusionary behaviour, presumably to block the public broadcaster’s recently launched dedicated sports channel from getting off the ground.

The SABC’s main gripe is that MultiChoice, which holds the rights of many of the lucrative sporting codes largely because of its financial muscle, places unfair restrictions on where the public broadcaster can flight sublicensed matches.

The SABC has also bemoaned the fact that it is underfunded by the government, which it says makes it difficult for it to meet its mandate. Its push to unbundle sports rights or at least fair sublicensing criteria will be crucial for its turnaround plan.

Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird said it was surprising that the issue of the fair distribution of sports rights had taken so long to resolve, given that it dated back to 2017.

‘While some had hoped the issues would have been addressed by the sport rights regulations, we are still left with one broadcaster that dominates sports. I think the real shift is going to be what happens when even bigger players come on board,’ Bird said.

Full Business Day report