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WT20 Qualifier (4)
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MSL attracts 3.4 million viewers on opening weekend

While gate receipts have been lukewarm, the TV numbers spell out hope for Cricket South Africa

Liam Brickhill
Liam Brickhill
Imran Tahir goes off in celebration  •  MSL

Imran Tahir goes off in celebration  •  MSL

The Mzansi Super League attracted a live television audience in excess of 3.4 million South African viewers during it's opening weekend that featured four matches. The league is only just starting to gain traction and attract fans to matches as summer sets in, but TV figures suggest the league has already struck up significant interest from viewers watching at home.
Iffy weather, a cold snap on the opening weekend and the introduction of new teams perhaps resulted in the tournament failing to attract huge number of fans to the ground. Only around 7000 fans turned up for the first match between Cape Town Blitz and Tshwane Spartans at the 25,000 capacity Newlands, while 4896 were at Wanderers for the game between Jozi Stars and Nelson Mandela Bay Giants. At the same time, the match attracted 16,65,546 unique TV viewers in South Africa alone.
An audience analysis carried out independently by Nielsen Sport revealed that a unique TV audience of 34,18,594 viewed the first four matches in the league. The Saturday night fixture between the Jozi Stars and Nelson Mandela Bay Giants drew the biggest audience, with all four matches going beyond the 1.3 million mark.
SABC-3, the channel the games have been broadcast on in South Africa, typically attracts around 21 million South African viewers in a month. The top rated show on the channel is the soap opera Isidingo, which has been running for 20 years and attracts around a million viewers per episode, to which MSL's viewership figures compare favourably.
For further comparison, the T20I against Zimbabwe on 12 October attracted 6,07,948 viewers to the channel. Outside of South Africa, a broadcast deal with Sony means that the MSL is also being screened in India on the channels Sony Six and Sony Six HD. CSA also have a deal with UK-based channel FreeSports, which is available in 18 million homes in the UK. FreeSports also aired live coverage of the 2017 Bangladesh Premier League.
"This fully justifies our decision to take the SABC on board as our domestic host broadcast partner," Cricket South Africa Chief Executive Thabang Moroe said . "This is truly a product for the people and has helped us achieve one of our key objectives not just to attract traditional cricket fans but to open up a new market as well.
"It is a win-win situation for all our stakeholders whether they be administrators, players, coaches, fans or our commercial partners. The MSL can only go from strength to strength as it will continue to grow while establishing itself alongside various T20 leagues around the world. The most watched sporting event in South African television history was the opening match between South Africa and Mexico during the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, with a combined 10,146,793 viewers watching the match on SABC 1 and SuperSport 3 on the satellite DSTV network.
While figures for match attendances are starting to rise, with the game between Cape Town Blitz and Paarl Rocks last weekend close to sold out, the television viewing figures are an even more positive sign for CSA after their initial attempt at a homegrown league - the defunct T20 Global League - failed.

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town