‘They had rights to games they never showed’: sports finance expert on SABC’s rights to Bafana and Banyana matches

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 24: David Sidenberg during the Sports Industry Summit 2013 at Deloitte Johannesburg Office in Woodmead on October 24, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

David Sidenberg, a sports commercial rights expert, says if the SA Broadcast Corporation (SABC) struggled to make its money back on its old R110m annual broadcast deal for Bafana Bafana games, then the broadcaster’s approach was arguably not strategic enough.

Sidenberg is one of the sponsorship industry’s most influential thought leaders, and he and his company BMI Sport Info are credited for the leading role they have played over the last 30 years in quantifying the impact sports marketing budgets contribute to their clients’ bottom line results.

The SABC stalled on renegotiating a deal with the SA Football Association (Safa) to air Bafana and Banyana Banyana matches after the contract expired in 2018.

Finally, after an acrimonious process where the cash-strapped SABC said it could not make the R110m it was paying back in advertising revenue, a lesser agreement was reached in October last year.

Sidenberg said given viewership figures in the millions on the public broadcaster for football matches, and the profiles of Bafana and Banyana, the SABC should have been able to make considerably more returns than stated publicly from their commercial broadcast rights agreement with Safa.

“They [SABC] had rights that far exceeded Bafana.

“They had the rights to games that they never showed. For example they also had Banyana.

“They had five games a year, of which they only broadcast three in two years,” Sidenberg told TimesLIVE.

“They also had rights to the ABC Motsepe League [third division] and the SAB League [fourth division].

“They had a magazine show. Unfortunately they were simply unable to effectively market and sell advertising and sponsorship for these rights.

“And you know, you don’t just make money back on sport on a one-to-one basis from just the top live games – ‘I paid R100m and I need R100m in ad revenue’.

“What premium content does is it affords you the opportunity to grow your entire channel profile, so that if you can then raise your channel rate card by 5-10% across the board, because it’s the biggest channel in the country, or the home of football, then your overall revenues get multiplied.

“With Safa you have the potential for unlimited football content on the number one sport with the highest audiences.

“Content that if produced efficiently and marketed effectively could be used strategically – with the right model – to even launch a 24-hour sports channel.

“The SABC was taken to task at Icasa [hearings] when I was there [Sidenberg presented from BMI], on, for example, cricket – if you decide the day before a five-day Test that you’re going to put it on, well then you can’t sell out.