The majority of South Africans will again miss out on watching a major sporting event this year. The SABC announced on Monday it could not afford broadcasting rights for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, starting on Friday.
The public broadcaster has been wracked by financial trouble for some time and is awaiting a bailout from the government.
The announcement comes a day before the SABC board is expected to appear before parliament’s communications committee on Tuesday, to explain its turnaround strategy. The board is also expected to reveal how it plans to implement recommendations by the auditor-general, public protector and parliament’s ad hoc committee.
“The SABC can confirm that it was unable to reach a sublicense agreement with SuperSport for the television broadcast of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The SABC was negotiating the radio rights with another third party, which was IMG and unfortunately an agreement there, could also not be reached,” said Vuyo Mthembu, SABC spokesperson.
In August, football fans were left in the dark for the first round of PSL matches as the SABC and Multichoice failed to reach an agreement on costs. A deal was eventually struck after intervention from Minister of Sports, Arts and Recreation Nathi Mthethwa.
In June, the SABC was only able to broadcast two live Cricket World Cup matches involving South Africa, with remaining matches shown a few hours later.
South Africa kicks off its Rugby World Cup campaign on Saturday against New Zealand in Yokohama, Japan. The tournament runs until November 2.
“The public broadcaster endeavours to broadcast sports of national interest, as well as national teams of the respective sporting codes, in fulfulling its public mandate. However, the costs of these particular rights fees would not have been commercially viable and there would not have been a return on investment for the organisation,” Mthembu said in a statement.
In the 2016/2017 financial year, the SABC spent R441-million on broadcasting rights, around R189-million over budget. A year before that it spent more than R400-million on broadcasting deals. In the 2017/2018 financial year, that figure dropped to R167-million.
Last month SABC chief financial officer Yolande van Biljon told members of the select committee on public enterprises and communications in the National Council of Provinces, the public broadcaster incurred a loss of R483-million in the last financial year. SABC chief executive Madoda Mxakwe told the same committee that operational costs for the SABC had amounted to R3.8bn in the last three financial years, and another R6.8bn was expected to be spent over the next three years.