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Cricket blackout on SABC for SA matches

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By Stuart Hess

Johannesburg – The majority of the country stands to miss seeing the South African cricket team in action from Friday because the SABC and Cricket South Africa have failed to agree broadcasting terms.

The national broadcaster is not willing to show the series with New Zealand, which encompasses three T20 Internationals, two Tests and three One-Day Internationals, because it is unable to raise sufficient funds for the rights – despite those rights being offered to them at half the price it cost for last year’s deal.

“This is not for our commercial interests, we want cricket to be shown on the SABC because it’s in the national interest,” said CSA’s head of “commercial and marketing”, Marc Jury.

Events such as South Africa’s matches played in the country are grouped as “listed sports events” by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, which means they must be available on a free-to-air channel.

Cricket SA already has a broadcast deal in place with pay channel SuperSport, who handle production for cricket matches which can be passed on to the SABC.

The SABC have been offered the rights for R15 million compared with R30m last season, but have told CSA they are still unable to raise sufficient funds and won’t make enough money from advertising. A sign of CSA’s desperation is that the organisation is willing to help the SABC find advertisers for their broadcasts, but even that doesn’t satisfy them as they claim cricket takes up too much time and isn’t financially viable for them financially.

It is understood that CSA, following a series of meetings with the SABC that began in September, put together a package that “would relax any financial constraints that a large rights fee would place on the SABC and create a partnership whereby CSA and the SABC work closely together to ensure that commercial revenue is generated by selling airtime in the cricket broadcasts”.

“It is important for us that the majority of the South African public sees the national team.

“In the Test format we are the No 1 team in the world and with the team not having played in the country for a year, we know that there’ll be a lot of interest in seeing them play again,” Jury explained.

Viewing figures for cricket broadcast on SABC 3 suggest the sport is very popular, with up to 2 million viewers tuning in, though the SABC, which have already sold advertising space for other programming during the matches with New Zealand, claim the costs incurred for production are still too high.

The SABC have told CSA that the best they can do is to show highlights packages.

Although there is no agreement in place yet, CSA expects the SABC will carry on with ball-by-ball commentary on Radio 2000.

Jury insists that CSA will continue to meet with the SABC in the coming days and are willing to wait until Friday morning – when the first T20 match is set to be played – to reach a deal. The SABC have shown all of South Africa’s incoming tours since the country returned from sporting isolation in 1992.

Spokesman for the SABC, Kaizer Kganyago said the organisation was still “looking at different options”.

“We will make a decision early in the week. There are certain things were must look at internally first, these are issues the SABC is considering. We know the game is Friday, we will have the matter finalised early in the week,” said Kganyago. – Sunday Independent

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