In another late, come-from-behind victory, the SABC secured the rights to the Cricket World Cup – after the tournament already started. Cricket-loving South Africans will be able to watch the sporting showpiece after yet another 11th-hour agreement between the public broadcaster and MultiChoice, which owns the rights.
Whether that means the Proteas will be any good at this event is an entirely different conversation. Unlike the Springboks, the current rugby world champions, the country’s cricketers have an unfortunate habit of choking (yes, the first way to deal with a problem is to admit it).
Airing out some dirty linen
The SABC aired its grievances with MultiChoice on Tuesday, after both companies put out stinging statements about each other – more like watching two swaggering heavyweight boxers before a fight. But by Thursday, the deal was done.
“The only thing that has changed is that Multichoice has accepted the previous offer that the SABC had put on the table,” said SABC chief operating officer Ian Plaatjes. “We started this negotiation two years ago. A couple of months ago, we picked up the discussion with them to try and get both the cricket and rugby World Cup rights and some of the marathons that Athletics South Africa had given them exclusivity on.”
The SABC’s decision to air its dirty linen in public appears to have worked.
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“The rugby had been sorted, the cricket we put a value on the table, but it was not accepted previously, and we obviously had to walk away and made the announcement that we would not be taking the Cricket World Cup, and they have come back to us and accepted our previous offer,” Plaatjes added.
“We’ll be doing all the Proteas games, one semi-final, the final and the closing ceremony. The game we missed today [Thursday], we’ll be augmenting that with the game between Pakistan and Sri Lanka on the 10th [of October].”
Fool me once…
After the rugby debacle, which was resolved just days before the event kicked off in France, the SABC seemingly had a fire sale for sponsors to help with those licence fees. SA Breweries, Hollywood Bets and Pineapple Insurance reportedly coughed up $3m or R57m to pay for those rugby rights.
We therefore don’t know if the SABC is making any money from the rugby showpiece, or just covering its costs. But then, we know the SABC doesn’t have a good track record at managing its own finances – nor is it getting much help from the non-practising communications ministry.
The good news though, is that SABC viewers will be able to watch the cricket. Personally, I think a World Cup is the only time cricket isn’t mind-numbingly boring. The same is true of football, for that matter. I’m not a fan of either game – as readers of this website are probably aware – but watching the best teams in the world playing against each other is good entertainment.
Meanwhile, eMedia – the parent company of both e.tv and the Openview free-to-air satellite service – is suing MultiChoice over the rugby rights – which preclude OpenView. Due in court on Tuesday, there is no guarantee that the case will be resolved before the Springboks reach the final (here’s hoping).