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CSA signs ‘more commercially viable’ MSL rights deal with SABC

AB de Villiers of the Tshwane Spartans during the Mzansi Super League match against Paarl Rocks (by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Cricket South Africa has confirmed the extension of a rights deal with the SABC for the Mzansi Super League, with the cash-strapped public-service broadcaster reportedly paying a rights fee for this year’s edition of the domestic Twenty20 competition.

Following initial reports of a deal in August, CSA yesterday (Wednesday) stated that the SABC will again hold the exclusive broadcasting rights in South Africa for ‘MSL 2.0’, which will run from November 8 to December 16.

SABC3 TV and Radio 2000 will provide live coverage of all matches and there will be further coverage on SABC’s various radio platforms.

“A key aspect of our vision for South African cricket is to make the game accessible to all and the SABC platforms make this very possible,” CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe said in a statement. “Going this route last season was a huge success and this was reflected by the official viewership figures throughout the tournament.

“Virtually all the games will be shown at peak viewing times. The day-night games will all start at 5.30pm, the Saturday game at 12.30pm and the Sunday double-headers at 10am and 2pm respectively. This should all make for great family entertainment.”

The ESPNcricinfo website said that while the SABC were gifted the rights to the 2018 MSL after CSA failed to strike a deal with SuperSport, this has changed for 2019. CSA has described the new deal as “more commercially viable” than last season, when CSA budgeted a ZAR40m (€2.4m/$2.6m) loss for the inaugural MSL campaign, a figure that was actually reported to be higher.

SuperSport told ESPNcricinfo that it did not bid for the rights to the 2019 MSL. Kugandrie Govender, CSA’s chief commercial officer, added: “We can confirm that the deal with SABC was different from the first edition of MSL in that this year, it is more commercially viable for us.

“As the lifeblood for CSA, broadcast revenue remains key for us, and we are pleased for the SABC’s investment in our valued property and for the assistance in providing access to millions of cricket-loving South Africans who may otherwise not be able to enjoy the game.”

In August, CSA struck a new deal with Global Sports Commerce, its commercial partner for the Mzansi Super League, extending the agency’s ties to the tournament by a further year.

The new contract spans the five editions of the MSL scheduled to run from 2019 to 2023. The agreement grants Singapore-based GSC all commercial rights to the event, excluding the teams, and makes the agency the official broadcast and digital rights-holder outside of South Africa.

The MSL-SABC deal has been struck after the public broadcaster last month said that 83 per cent of its ZAR483m annual loss for the 2018-19 period was due to its investment in sports rights. Speaking in front of South Africa’s Portfolio Committee on Communications, group chief executive Madoda Mxakwe said that around ZAR400m of the unaudited loss total was a “directly contributed by the cost of sports rights”.

Mxakwe frequently referenced the “exorbitant” cost of sports broadcast rights as he answered questions from the Committee. The appearance of SABC executives in front of the Commission came soon after the news that the public broadcaster had failed to strike a deal with pay-television operator SuperSport for broadcast rights to the ongoing Rugby World Cup.