SABC broadcast deal with ASA is almost done - Rathbone
SABC Sport Boss Gary Rathbone has revealed that they are close to concluding a new broadcast deal with Athletics South Africa (ASA). The right to cover athletics on TV has remained the sole domain of the public broadcaster since the inception of televised athletics in South Africa almost 40 years ago. But a combination of factors from the SABC's financial woes, boardroom battles inside ASA and the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that the one year deal signed between the two parties in January 2020, is yet to be renewed. But Rathbone says the deal is almost done.
"It's been a long time coming. We had that deal last year that started the whole thing but the whole thing collapsed because of Covid. But it's back on track," he told #TheTopRunner at the launch of the new 24-hour SABC Sport channel.
Rathbone believes that this new channel which is available on the SABC DTT service, the Openview set-top-box and the TelkomONE mobile streaming platform, is the perfect platform for athletics, boxing and tennis in particular to tell their stories, over and above the broadcast of live events.
"What I was saying about stories is that let's create narratives which are not just about the single live event but the supporting programming around that. I mean the content and the highlights, the documentaries and the talk shows. And that's the good thing about a 24/7 channel because you can have the live event on the weekend and tell those stories like documentaries during the week. What makes the channel work is the opportunity for people to come in and engage on many different levels," he explained.
ASA President James Moloi who took office in May on the back of an election manifesto that underlined the importance of getting regular live athletics back on SA TV welcomed the new channel saying it would be an opportunity for his federation to showcase their product offering. "We feel great because this is long overdue. We are very excited and believe that this is a golden opportunity for our athletes to show themselves," he said.
Moloi also suggested during his election campaign that he would not be against the possibility of divvying up their broadcast rights where different broadcasters bought the right to show different ASA events and programming. It is understood, that SuperSport could be in favour of this model and have been courting ASA on the possibility of acquiring some rights for some ASA events including lucrative mass participation road races such as the Comrades Marathon.