JOHANNESBURG – The importance of Cricket South Africa’s next broadcast deal can’t be overstated.
Last October CSA told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Sport and Recreation that it was forecasting a loss of R654 million for the four-year period from May 1, 2018 and April 30, 2022.
The second half of that will encompass the next broadcast deal CSA will be signing. The current one with SuperSport runs out at the end of April next year. CSA and SuperSport have already begun preliminary discussions about a new deal and as far as both bodies are concerned, formal negotiations - expected to start in February, according to CSA CEO Thabang Moroe - will be challenging.
CSA need money. Salaries for players, staff, local coaches and most importantly, their development initiatives, all come out of that broadcast kitty.
Domestic cricket brings in no revenue for CSA. In fact, Moroe told the committee the T20 Challenge had cost CSA between R20 and R25 million per year for the past few years. Throw in the fact that this season’s Mzansi Super League made a loss of over R40m (on top of the R200m lost when the Global T20 League didn’t happen) and CSA’s financial woes appear to be extreme.
Whatever broadcast deal is signed - it’s unlikely to be with the SABC - CSA desperately need income. Sponsors have been hard to come by and expenses related to development programmes have increased.
It appears to leave SuperSport in the stronger position. The fact that they have broadcast the One-Day Cup, Africa T20 and T20 Challenge when none of those events garner much in terms of ratings could lead them to ask why they should pay a premium price to CSA.
Moroe said last week that “it's no secret SuperSport wants cricket in its entirety exclusively”. Such a move would of course impact massively on what has been an important part of cricket’s development in this country - the broadcast of Proteas home matches on the public broadcaster, which has occured since the country’s return from international isolation.
Having that kind of exposure has been crucial for the sport’s growth and if any new deal were to exclude that, it would leave cricket as a sport just for the elite. And who knows how that would impact on development?
And yet as Moroe stated, there is a business element that needs to be acknowledged, which CSA, given the numbers mentioned above, cannot ignore. SuperSport have every right to demand exclusivity as far as the MSL is concerned, seeing as the T20 Challenge won’t be played next season. But then where will that leave the remaining two years of the deal CSA have with the SABC to show the MSL?
Viewership figures were largely good for the MSL, according to Moroe, and although no immediate financial benefit arose, the figures indicated that in the long term that could change. In fact, CSA CFO Nassei Appiah told parliament he expected the MSL to start “contributing to (CSA’s) revenues in five to 10 years”. That contribution will, however, be largely dependent on the next broadcast deal.
These are delicate times for CSA’s leadership. As viewers and spectators, only excellence is expected of the players when they take to the field. Well, the same must now be expected from CSA’s administrators.
The future of the sport in South Africa is at stake.