Pirates and Chiefs players fight during an Absa Premiership match. The SABC may stop showing the popular football league. PICTURE: LEFTY SHIVAMBU/GALLO IMAGES
Pirates and Chiefs players fight during an Absa Premiership match. The SABC may stop showing the popular football league. PICTURE: LEFTY SHIVAMBU/GALLO IMAGES
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The cash-strapped public broadcaster reportedly wants to cancel the broadcast of the popular Absa Premiership football games, saying it is “too costly”.

The SABC did not televise the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier football match between SA and the Seychelles at FNB Stadium at the weekend, after negotiations between the public broadcaster and the SA Football Association (Safa) broke down at the 11th hour.

However, the SABC insisted it will carry Tuesday’s return leg as Safa does not own the rights. It said talks with Safa were continuing. Safa said the SABC had made a “discourteous offer” on a new deal after opening the discussion in October 2017.

Briefing the media on Monday on the SABC’s sports rights acquisition strategy, the public broadcaster’s chief operations officer  Chris Maroleng said the manner in which rights were acquired was not mutually beneficial for all parties involved. The issue also had a negative impact on the SABC’s finances.

The SABC, which recorded a net loss of R622m in the financial year ended March, is in the midst of a severe financial crisis. In 2017 it reported a net loss of more than R1bn. In its annual report tabled in parliament in September, the auditor-general also slapped the SABC with a disclaimer — the worst possible outcome — and highlighted that the public broadcaster was commercially insolvent.

The SABC has mainly attributed its losses over the years to declining advertising revenue across all platforms, coupled with deteriorating TV licence fee collection. The broadcaster has bemoaned the fact that it is underfunded by government, which it says makes it difficult for it to meet its mandate. The unprofitable public broadcaster is compelled through legislation to cover events that are deemed to be of national importance, including sporting codes of national interest such as football and rugby.

The embattled public broadcaster has spent just over R1bn over the past four years on acquiring sports rights.

It previously admitted that failure to broadcast key sporting events could lead to reputational damage, an outcry from the public and, subsequently, a decline in advertising revenue and a drop in TV licence payments. 

The broadcaster has been questioned on its decision to  acquire the broadcast rights of the seemingly more expensive English Premier League. 

Maroleng said these rights were acquired at a reduced rate compared to other rights.  In August, the public broadcaster sub-licensed the broadcast rights for some of the English Premier League matches from the main rights holder, Kwese Sports, in a deal it described as “cost effective”.

The rights package will consist of 33 live matches‚ selected by the English Premier League.‚ for the duration of the 2018-2019 season. The SABC said the deal will increase viewership and in turn attract more advertisers, which could boost its revenue.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za