The joke’s on the CSA after TV deal stuff-up
Broadcasters set to get new T20 tournament for free
● Cricket South Africa (CSA) are set to give their new T20 tournament away for free: not once, but twice.
The Sunday Times understands that the SABC, which is R1.3-billion in debt, will not pay for the rights to air the competition, which was finally unveiled as the Mzansi Super League (MSL) on Friday.
As the state broadcaster’s channels are part of the DStv bouquet, the subscription audience will also be able to see the matches — at no cost to SuperSport.
And that in the wake of CSA apparently reneging on an equity agreement with SuperSport that would have pumped R150million a year into cricket’s coffers.
On June 8, CSA and SuperSport said they would be “teaming up to deliver a worldclass T20 competition to a South African and global audience”. The suits forecast that the venture would break even in its first year and subsequently earn a small profit.
But, on August 21, SuperSport’s chief executive, Gideon Khobane, said they had “decided to discontinue negotiations about shareholding”. That was interpreted to mean the network had walked away from the deal. The opposite would seem to be true.
“SuperSport concluded an equity deal with CSA for the new T20 event in principle, but CSA wanted a greater investment than originally agreed to,” Khobane said this week.
“When that deal fell through, we moved on and discussed a broadcast relationship. However, CSA’s asking price was again not commensurate with what SuperSport believed to be fair value.”
It appears CSA and SuperSport operational staff thrashed out an agreement, which was scuppered once CSA’s board got involved. Asked for comment, CSA avoided confirmation and denial: “Despite good faith negotiations, the parties failed to reach agreement on the material terms of the transaction. Neither party reneged on an existing agreement.”
CSA declined to shed light on the charge that they were gifting their tournament to the SABC: “As regards the terms of the deal with SABC, these are confidential and these contractual negotiations are ongoing.”
SABC spokeswoman Neo Momodu was on the same blank page: “The details of the agreement between the parties are confidential and will not be shared publicly.”
SuperSport’s contract with CSA for all cricket played in South Africa — aside from the MSL — runs until 2021.
The broadcaster will likely look to continue the relationship, and seem content to regard the T20 episode as an aberration.
Indeed, that seemed more certain than the tournament being played until Friday’s announcement confirming the league’s title. The venues were revealed on Thursday as the Wanderers, Centurion, Kingsmead, St George’s Park, Newlands and Boland Park. The names of the teams and the players will, CSA say, follow tomorrow. As yet, there are no signs of sponsors.
Whispers that the tournament will be postponed were confirmed on Friday when CSA said it would run from November 16 to December 16, and not from November 9 as previously stated. That also means the MSL will be seven days shorter than initially advertised.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because what was supposed to be its inaugural edition last year was called off.
That cost CSA plenty in terms of the cricket-minded’s public confidence in their ability to deliver the competition, and sparked anger among the original franchise owners — who were told they no longer had a stake in the tournament and refunded their deposits.
The SABC could conceivably use the MSL to earn revenue, but it seems set to have to spend money to make money.
Whether the corporation has enough equipment and technical expertise to present the event to the high standard seen in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Big Bash League is debatable.
CSA has said that the Board of Control for Cricket in India has agreed to allow their officials to work on the MSL, but freelance staff are likely to be required. And cricket’s best production people don’t come cheap.
Quite why CSA would turn down SuperSport’s money, having already spurned the investment made by the franchise owners, remains a mystery.
An explanation might be that the board are chasing the dream of being less beholden to the swings and roundabouts of the international calendar’s funding patterns.
But, by CSA’s own admission, the MSL will lose R40-million in its first year.
We don’t know what the teams will be called, who will play for them, in which fixtures ...