New online broadcaster ‘disrupts’ sports TV market

A file photo of SABC Outside Broadcast vans parked in the Peter Mokaba Stadium precinct in Polokwane. The SABC has until Friday September 7 2018 to pay a portion owed to the SA Football Association or the public broadcaster will face a blackout of the crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Libya a day later on Saturday September 8 2018.
A file photo of SABC Outside Broadcast vans parked in the Peter Mokaba Stadium precinct in Polokwane. The SABC has until Friday September 7 2018 to pay a portion owed to the SA Football Association or the public broadcaster will face a blackout of the crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Libya a day later on Saturday September 8 2018.
Image: BackpagePix

Live boxing returns to SABC screens on Saturday night courtesy of an online broadcaster intent on disrupting the traditional sports television market.

Sport and Entertainment International (SEI) founder Emilé van Zyl says they cut their teeth as a production company filming challenging events like the Duzi and Cape Epic before taking the step-up as a broadcaster.

“We’re not a streaming company‚ we do mobile broadcasting.”

The business model is simple: a 50/50 rights share with the sports bodies that sees an equal split in sponsorships.

“Federations [traditionally] sell off their content and then it’s gone‚” Van Zyl told TimesLIVE this week. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go to broadcasters to buy content [back] for federations.”

He’s been talking to 27 different sports federations‚ with deals in place with 10 of them‚ including cricket‚ rugby‚ netball‚ water polo and even wrestling.

But SEI is not competing against the big-money properties like national teams and mainstream competitions‚ rather going in at a lower level where participation numbers are higher.

They do Golden Lions club rugby and their cricket brand is the 12-year-old National Premier League which has more than one million followers across its social media platforms‚ Van Zyl said.

“Everything is sponsorship driven. We take it to an internal agency and we take it to the advertisers. We are creating potential big sponsors of tomorrow‚ this is the key…

“The days of advertisers paying R150‚000 for a 30-second advert are over. We’re selling ad space‚ a package for the day‚ for R50‚000. We’re creating a new advertising model as well.”

The deal with Saturday’s boxing tournament‚ headlined by welterweight Tulani Mbenge‚ is different‚ however. The promoter is paying SEI a nominal fee and they in turn have done a deal with SABC who are carrying some of the costs‚ like the commentators.

It’s a win-win situation all round. SEI gets its product onto free-to-air TV‚ which benefits the fighters and the promoter; the cash-strapped SABC gets to show live boxing at a fraction of the cost.

Satellite link-ups are exorbitant‚ but dialling in through the broadband‚ even at high definition‚ is 10% of the cost‚ said Van Zyl.

“Online broadcasting is the way. Eighty percent of the last soccer World Cup was viewed online. Guys are watching more and more online.”

Ironically‚ Covid-19 helped to grow SEI. “People were looking for content when they were sitting at home for three months.

“And data is getting cheaper.”

SEI does offer pay-per-view options‚ although Van Zyl insists he is planning on keeping viewing free for SA audiences. He describes SEI as a small broadcaster that’s about to become big‚ adding he is living his dream.

He recalled a conversation from 16 years ago with a senior official from one of the country’s established broadcasters.

“I told him ‘you guys are selective with sport‚ you need to get it out to the masses‚ you are elitist’. I told him one day I’m going to have an alternative sports broadcaster and he laughed at me.”

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