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SABC Sport launching as new TV channel

2012-05-02 10:20
Cape Town – The SABC plans to launch SABC Sport as a brand new separate TV channel in South Africa on October 1.

SABC Sport, currently a brand name of the SABC's sports coverage, will become a stand-alone TV channel as one of the 15 new TV channels the SABC plans to launch in addition to the existing SABC1, SABC2 and SABC3.

The SABC revealed that the broadcaster is planning to spend R732.7m on setting up SABC Sport as a separate TV channel over the next two years.

Meanwhile, the SABC and the department of sports have signed a multi-million rand deal with America's National Basketball Association (NBA) to show NBA coverage on SABC1 and later SABC Sport.

SABC1 will show two NBA games per week. This NBA coverage will rapidly expand beyond SABC1 with major NBA coverage on SABC Sport which will include the full NBA season in 2013.

Less disruption

The SABC and the South African Football Association (Safa) also hope to sign a deal next week, believed to be worth R220m, for the SABC to get broadcasting rights to all Bafana Bafana games played in South Africa over the next three years.

This broadcasting deal will bring major stable local soccer coverage for the SABC with the plan to show much of it on SABC Sport with less disruption to the schedules of the SABC's existing TV channels.

"We are hoping to go live on October 1," said Sizwe Nzimande, the SABC's head of sports. "We showed the soccer, cricket and rugby world cups, and now have the best of the best in the NBA. This is about catering for the sports channel so that when we do get it, we will have the right content to interest people," he said.

SABC digital channel offering

Some of the other TV channels in the 18 channel bouquet which will form a part of the SABC's digital terrestrial television (DTT) offering include a new 24-hour news channel to replace SABC News International and SABC Entertainment.

The SABC is planning to spend R288.9m over the next three years alone on setting up the 24-hour news channel. In addition the news channel will cost the SABC at least R80m per year to operate.

SABC Education and SABC Movies are also channels the SABC already tested. SABC4 and SABC5 will be introduced as region specific TV channels catering to the north and the south of the country. Each will broadcast in a different set of languages most predominant in their regions.

The plan is however for both regional channels to be available nationally to all SABC viewers in the way that, for instance, SowetoTV as a community TV channel can be seen nationwide due to its inclusion as a channel on a national digital TV platform such as DStv.

+2 and +24 channels for viewers without PVR

So-called "plus two" and "plus twenty-four" (or "+2" and "+24") channels as they're known in the trade might also be included as some of the 18 TV channels, the SABC's technical division announced at the end of last year.

They will operate in a similar way to TopTV's Top Movies +2 and Top Movies +24 TV channels. These "plus" channels would show SABC TV content exactly two hours later on one channel and 24 hours later on another, making perpetual time-shifted viewing possible for viewers who don't have a VCR or PVR.

No indication yet exists of how many additional new TV channels and M-Net will run. These two broadcasters will also be expanding with several more TV channels each as South Africa's TV industry moves from analogue to digital broadcasting - a process known as digital migration.

DTT's "must carry" uncertainty

As pay TV platforms, MultiChoice's DStv, On Digital Media's TopTV and M-Net currently all include and show SABC1, SABC2, SABC3 and as part of so-called "must carry" rules under the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa's (Icasa) broadcasting regulations for pay TV operators.

They all have to include and show public TV channels on their bouquets but these "must carry" regulations however only pertain to analogue broadcasting.

Nothing compels MultiChoice, ODM and M-Net - and currently no regulations regarding "must carry" rules exist - to force pay TV operators to carry the growing number of public access TV channels on their bouquets.

For these pay TV operators the forthcoming rapid public TV channel expansion - and to carry and include these new channels - will be extremely bandwidth intensive. Icasa told parliament that no "must carry" regulations for the coming digital TV environment for pay TV operators currently exist.

Without a "must carry" stipulation in the final digital regulations, it means that pay TV subscribers in South Africa might not automatically get the burgeoning number of new free TV channels on their specific pay TV system, if their operator has the option to exclude them.

Should pay TV operators not carry these additional free public television channels, pay TV subscribers who might want to see these channels, will be forced to buy an additional set top box (STB) which the government said will cost R700.

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