DStv’s monopoly on sports being challenged in South Africa

Leonard Sengere Avatar
DStv sports monopoly being challenged

Here in Zimbabwe as Kwese was relaunched for the third time, comparison of the pay-TV service to DStv was inevitable. In the conversation one thing kept coming up, for a good number of people it doesn’t matter what Kwese brings to the table, if they can’t provide the same sports content available on DStv they simply won’t consider it an option.

DStv has been in the industry for decades and in those years they have built strong relationships with rights owners as they have negotiated for massive sports contracts. Some of the contracts they signed with those rights owners were for long periods of time and exclusive contracts they were too.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is set to picket on Saturday at the Rugby Championship clash between South Africa and New Zealand (go All Blacks, jk.) The main reason they are protesting is DStv’s monopoly over national rugby broadcasting rights in South Africa.

Such is DStv’s monopoly that national rugby team games are only accessible to those with DStv subscriptions and Supersport access. No games are broadcast by the national broadcaster SABC. Said Cosatu,

National sports that must inspire the whole nation must be shown live on SABC, as it is a national sport of all the people. This kind of discrimination will never be allowed in a national soccer match, as the government would step in to ensure it is available live for all citizens.

DStv stuck their hand too deep into the cookie jar.

It is not only rugby where DStv has rights which are being contested. There were challenges in reaching an agreement with Cricket SA regarding which games would be shown on free to air channels. The issue at hand was the Global T20 League, the South African answer to the IPL, which Supersport would normally have gotten exclusive rights to.

The experts say that DStv is not likely to feel the effect of the Cosatu picketing this weekend but those Cosatu protests are likely going to be noticed by the government and regulators. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) was already looking at the subscription-based television broadcasting services industry and the efforts by Cosatu are likely going to accelerate that process.

Icasa when they launched the inquiry back in August said the aim was to determine whether there were competition issues in the sector (like they don’t know.) Icasa is looking at shortening exclusive contracts and unbundling sports rights so that they are accessible to more than one buyer.

They are also looking at the Sky model in the UK, where there is a wholesale must offer on sports channels, which requires an operator to sell sporting content to other distributors at regulated prices. Kwese is no doubt looking on with bated breath at these developments.

DStv may be the go to broadcaster for premium sport content but that position is being challenged every day and with new entrants in the market like Kwese, five years down the line we might have a picture totally different from the one we have right now.

For football lovers, Supersport might not be the go to service in the future, Facebook and Amazon are set to join in the fight for English Premier League rights and also the Champions League. Facebook’s head of sports refused to rule out a bid for EPL rights. Kwese will be in the mix too and as the next set of rights are set to be auctioned next year we will see what happens then.


  1. roller meal

    Rugby is restricted not just to DSTV but to the premium bouquet. It’s a disgrace.

    1. Peter

      I agree, and how desperate I am to see some decent cricket!

    2. jaydeebee

      The sports carried by the Premium bouquet are there because of the cost of buying the rights for those sports. And who creates that cost? The players, the agents, the marketing teams, the behind-the-scene teams, the army of physios etc who follow these top teams, their kit, and most of all, the ludicrous salaries paid to the players. That’s where the high figures come into the equation of bidding and paying for the broadcasting rights – which cost a fortune. Where do you think those costs have to be spread – they can’t be spread among the lower bouquets!

      1. Anonymous

        There’s no problem with this restriction in other Multichoice markets, but in South Africa, Springbok rugby matches should be made available to the SA public as a social responsibility. I agree with COSATU on this one.

        1. jaydeebee

          Yeah, you have a good point there.

        2. Sagitarr

          Who pays for the “social responsibility”? The players want their millions, so do all other people & organisations in the value chain. Sport is a luxury, if you can’t afford to pay for a live match you can always watch a delayed match, you won’t die.

          1. Roller Meal

            Who pays is a legitimate question and I don’t claim to have an answer. Between SARU, Multichoice and the national government a solution has to be found. You have a situation now where only a privileged few in SA can watch one of the big three national teams play because of the whims of a private company. And nobody is interested in watching a game where the result is already known as is the status quo. Availing Springbok home games free to the SA public is not going to bankrupt Multichoice.

    3. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

      You need to put things into perspective. DSTV bought rights to something they wanted to broadcast, is not a fault. Every broadcaster does that. The issue must be taken up with those that sold the exclusive rights, not those that bought them. You buy what’s on the table. It would be insane to expect DSTV to be at the negotiating table and say “you are selling us exclusive rights, what about local broadcasters?”. Fix the problem at the root.

      1. Roller Meal

        But DSTV should have forseen a situation where ordinary South Africans are financially excluded from watching their own national team. The fault is theirs. The sellers of the rights did not specify that rugby should only be shown on premium bouquet.

        1. jaydeebee

          The sellers of the rights specify the hundreds of millions of dollars/pounds they charge for the rights. DStv is a commercial business. The local broadcaster should also tender for, and pay for the rights, just like any other business. Is it DStv’s fault that the national broadcaster is a complete mess and can’t run even local content properly? Business is business at the end of the day, and businesses have the right to choose which products they sell, at what price, and which market they target for those products.

          1. Roller Meal

            I wouldn’t argue with your point when it comes to Super Rugby, IPL, EPL and the like. Here we are talking of the national team. National interest has to come into play here.

            1. jaydeebee

              Tell that to the national broadcaster then.

              1. Roller Meal

                Wherever the fault lies, this a problem that needs to be fixed.

  2. RsTade

    You want to see rugby. Or cricket. Pay for the full bouquet it is that simple. Dstv is running a business not a charity. If you can not afford that’s just too bad.

    1. Roller Meal

      You miss the point. It’s not about broke niggaz in Harare wanting to watch Springboks vs All Blacks. It’s about South Africans having to fork out almost R800 per month to be able to watch their national team play. Would you like it if you needed DSTV premium to watch the Warriors play? There’s this thing called corporate social responsibility.

      1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

        There’s no corporate social responsibility involved here. What stopped SABC from getting rights to broadcast the said games? What stops ZBC from purchasing better content? It’s all about the priorities of the broadcasters involved. Aside from collecting TV licence fees, BBC makes movies and televisions series of their own, which they broadcast and further sell broadcasting rights to others for. They then use that money to buy broadcasting rights elsewhere, for additional programmes. SABC is a business, and should be treated as such. It can’t be poor only when bidding for broadcasting rights, but not when buying cars for managment.

        Besides that, if you want to watch the national team on TV for “free”, how do they, the football authorities, the stadiums and others make money at the end of the day. TV licences don’t entitle you watch everything from your country for free. Sport TV rights are charged for watching it at home. Even when you watch the national team at the stadium do you not pay? So, why should it be free because you own a TV?

        1. Roller Meal

          How much do you pay to enter a stadium vs how much do you pay for DSTV premium? The national team is not a commercial entity, they are flag bearers. If you price out the majority of citizens you might as well stop calling it a national team. The SABC managed to find a solution to screen national football and cricket games live so what exactly is the problem with rugby?

          1. jaydeebee

            You have isolated the perceived problem as follows:
            “The SABC managed to find a solution to screen national football and cricket games live, so what exactly is the problem with rugby?”

            The SABC has a responsibility to screen sports – and should negotiate with SARU, not so?

            1. Roller Meal

              The problem is you cannot just reduce the issue to the financial realities of acquiring sports rights, and I fully appreciate those realities. But there are also socio-political realities one must consider when it comes to major national teams. If the people cannot afford to watch their own team they will not identify with it. That is a particular problem for SA rugby in particular given the history.

            2. Roller Meal

              In terms of negotiations, yes SARU, government and Multichoice have to sit down and come up with solution that maintains the financial viability of rugby and at the same time doesn’t exclude the sport from the majority.

          2. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

            National sports are funded as well. How many times has the Zimbabwean national soccer team, or ZIFA, moved around with it’s begging bowl whilst you watch their games on TV for free? As your flag bearer, how do you make your contribution?

            The Olympics is a national teams only sporting event, but it has broadcasting rights. Why? Because the events need to be funded, infrastructure, match officials, accomodation. The same thing applies at a local level.

        2. jaydeebee

          Well said.

          1. jaydeebee

            Sorry, the “Well said.” comment was in relation to Imi Vanhu Musadaro’s post.

  3. RsTade

    People like free stuff nd to that end they start to claim social responsibility. When the truth of the matter is that they are not able to buy. Is rugby or cricket suffering from not being shown for free? Instead the south African teams are thriving. It’s an idiotic argument made by people who want free stuff

    1. Roller Meal

      Idiotic is having a national team that only the privileged rich can support. Your arguments make sense with regards to club teams and the like. The national team is different kettle of fish. Nobody is saying that teams do not need to be financially viable. But if ordinary people can not associate with the team in any way what is exactly is the point of having that team. Governments have to come in to cover the financial gaps that arise from the need to be more inclusive. I take it you would be comfortable if all Warriors games were only shown on DSTV premium because the players and the association would be making money but stuff the man in the street.

  4. RsTade

    How do people think that the south African teams pay for all their expenses, let’s put aside salaries for now. The south African teams are almost always on tour to for instance the cricket team goes to England, Australia, New Zealand they pay full fare price on the plane plus accommodation and other necessary costs. Do you people think that the money from gate takings covers all that. Unlike in Zimbabwe the minister of sports can not advance them money that is supposed to be used to upgrade the mobile network system of the country. These teams are supposed be self sustaining. So the major portion of their money comes from the sale of TV rights

  5. Denver Dambudzo 0774415284

    Kwese its best

  6. Claire Phillips

    I appreciate the insight. Thanks for a nice share you have given to us with such a large collection of information. Great work you have done by sharing them to all. Simply superb. Best regards.
    Corporate responsibility

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