SABC reaches deal to bring some Rugby World Cup matches to radio

The SABC will broadcast select Rugby World Cup matches on radio.
The SABC will broadcast select Rugby World Cup matches on radio.
Image: Waldo Swiegers / Sunday Times.

The SABC will be broadcasting “select” matches from the Rugby World Cup — but only on radio stations.

The confirmation, issued by the national public broadcaster on Friday evening, comes just a week after it said it could not reach an agreement over rights for the tournament, either for radio or for television. This, it said, was because of financial pressures at the under-pressure broadcaster.

It was later revealed that it would have cost the SABC more than R400m to broadcast the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The SABC will still lose money in the deal announced on Friday.

The World Cup started in Japan on Friday, when the hosts beat Russia 30-10. The Springboks kick off their campaign with a match against the reigning champions, the All Blacks, on Saturday.

In a statement, SABC spokesperson Vuyo Mthembu said an agreement was struck with IMG, the company that manages licensing for the World Cup, for the rights to broadcast select matches of the tournament on radio.

“The agreement includes the broadcast of four matches featuring ... the Springboks, as well as two semifinals and the final match. SABC radio stations RSG and Radio 2000 will carry live commentary, while Umhlobo Wenene will provide reports during the match,” said Mthembu.

SABC acting COO Sylvia Tladi said: “The public broadcaster is aware of the fact that rugby is a loved sport in our country. We are pleased that we were able to negotiate and get to a point where, in the interest of the public and fulfilling our mandate, the SABC would be able to provide the SA public an opportunity to follow the Springboks on radio.

“Though there will be a [financial] loss, the organisation ensured that it was minimal, as the public broadcaster needed to find middle ground in fulfilling its public mandate, while looking at the financial sustainability of the corporation.”

SABC group CEO Madoda Mxakwe told MPs earlier this week that in the past financial year, the broadcaster had made a loss of R483m and that about R400m of that had been due to the costs of sports rights.

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