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Live coverage of NZ Tests dropped by SABC

Firdose Moonda

December 19, 2012

Comments: 32 | Text size: A | A

The South African team gather for a photograph after their victory against Australia, Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth, 4th day, December 3, 2012
South Africa's No. 1-ranked Test team will not have their matches shown live on terrestrial TV this summer © AFP
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For the first time since readmission, the majority of South Africa's television viewers could be left without any live Test cricket on their screens for the 2012-13 season. The national broadcaster, the SABC, has decided it will only air Twenty20s and ODIs and show highlights packages of up to two hours from the upcoming Tests against New Zealand.

This comes after it was revealed that the SABC was under financial constraints, which led it to consider not broadcasting any cricket this summer. Cricket South Africa and the SABC were engaged in talks early this week to negotiate and reached a compromise where the free-to-air channel paid ten times less this season compared to last.

In a press release, CSA said it hoped that the following series against Pakistan, which includes three Tests, five ODIs and two T20Is, "will be shown by the SABC in its entirety". The first of two Tests against New Zealand begins on January 2.

"It is a huge disappointment for us that the Tests matches won't be shown live although we are pleased the other games will," Jacques Faul, CSA acting chief executive told ESPNcricinfo. "We want to grow the game and the communities we want to reach out to will not have access to the matches."

Although CSA sold production rights for home internationals to subscription channel SuperSport, it still controls the broadcast rights. The package it sold to SuperSport excludes the free-to-air rights, which CSA holds back for the SABC. "Even though it means we get less money from those rights we carve them out so we can get the free-to-air broadcast," Faul said.

Last season, the SABC reportedly paid in the range of R30 million (US$3.5 million) to broadcast matches. CSA initially offered the SABC a deal for about half that but it was rejected. It has since had to resort to an even lower rights fee, partly because the parties ran out of time to negotiate further. The first match of South Africa's home summer, a T20 international against New Zealand in Durban will be played in two days' time and CSA were anxious for the deal to be sealed.

It has, however, led CSA to question its arrangement with the SABC going forward. "We will definitely assess our relationship with them in future because we do not want to do business like this," Faul said.

CSA's only other option would be to look at an arrangement with e.tv, the other non-subsciption channel in the country. International cricket matches played in South Africa are regarded as "listed sports events" by the Independent Communications Authority, which means they must be available on free-to-air television.

Despite those regulations, the SABC does not believe it has failed its remit. "The decision to broadcast these matches is a clear indication that we take our mandate seriously and we are cognisant that the public of South Africa deserve to see their cricket team," it said in a statement.

Cricket is the second-most popular sport in South Africa and almost five times as many people watch T20 and ODI matches on the SABC compared to SuperSport. Almost seven times more watch Test cricket on the national broadcaster and those could now face a blackout on live coverage. SuperSport will continue to show all matches live and the SABC's main sports radio station, 2000, will provide live ball-by-ball commentary at all the games.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by pardo on (December 21, 2012, 17:16 GMT)

Let's be honest - as a Kiwi I think the SABC are doing you all a favour. This is going to to pretty pitiful TV - most Kiwi rugby followers would eventually tire of watching the ABs play Japan - this is series is the cricketing equivalent! The decision may not be political at all - just cold hard commercial reality that no one will pay for ad space durring 7 hours of stealing candy from a baby. If they did this to you when SA were playing Oz, England or even India I'd have a huge amount of sympathy for you but really - you don't want to watch this. Roll on two division test cricket when we can have five tests series between two teams who can play!

Posted by edgie on (December 20, 2012, 9:11 GMT)

typical of SABC, shows NBA matches but cannot show a sport which it's own national team is the no 1 ranked in the world. Sorry, but this smacks of politics, and NOT money as they lead us to believe.

Posted by menaceSPV on (December 20, 2012, 8:33 GMT)

this is a joke, i feel sorry for people who cant afford DSTV. what a shame and disgrace for the SABC!!! the team are no.1 now and this is how they treat the best team in the world, by not showing the beloved team to its loved public?? 7 times more people watch test cricket than on dstv, come on guys what are you doing with your lives !?!?!?!? i cant believe that they did not come to some sort of deal to show the matches.

Posted by   on (December 20, 2012, 8:10 GMT)

@ brusselslion No the majority of Saffers do not prefer ODIs and other nonsense . Our national broadcaster does not represent what we want to watch in the slightest.

Posted by LBcricket82 on (December 20, 2012, 7:32 GMT)

Not surprised, SABC another ANC failure!

Posted by   on (December 20, 2012, 7:24 GMT)

Do some countries get free to air sport? Wow... haven't had that for decades here....

Posted by Strongarm on (December 20, 2012, 6:58 GMT)

SA government are quick to step in if sides are not demographically representative (except for soccer). Surely they should demand of the SABC that they broadcast test matches as well. As for radio broadcasts, it is not quite the same to broadcast from tv monitors than it would be to be live at the ground. SABC has failed SA public

Posted by Great_Nate on (December 20, 2012, 5:41 GMT)

@Handalf - you're kiding right? Nobody's fault SABC doesn't have any money? And what about all the corruption and incompetence at the top?

Posted by Geeva on (December 20, 2012, 5:08 GMT)

dont see what the big fuss is....SABC commentators are the worst...DSTV aint expensive Price range 340 to 600 depending what channels you want...And note to all fans in SA y dont you go watch the Test matches live.Cape Town will be well attended we have a great test match culture and hope PE has good crowd last test they had was WI in 2008

Posted by venkatesh018 on (December 20, 2012, 4:15 GMT)

Private satellite right holders having complete control over Test Telecasts is happening the world over... so it is not a surprise..But that doesn't mean it is right. All efforts should be made to take Test cricket to as many people as possible, even if it means a cut in the revenue for Cricket boards.

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