South Africa’s newly licensed pay-TV operators are going to find themselves playing catch up in the sporting arena, because MultiChoice has all but taken them out of the game, writes Lloyd Gedye in the Mail & Guardian.

Sport equals big money and with three pay-TV broadcasters set to enter the market, the stakes are going to get a lot higher.

Most pay-TV players or analysts will tell you that the two drivers of subscription broadcasting are movies and sport, which means the new entrants’ sports offerings are going to be crucial to their success or failure.

But MultiChoice, which has had a 13-year monopoly, realised this too and has been making sure it has plugged all the gaps that would allow e.sat, On Digital Media and Telkom Media to challenge the stranglehold held by its Supersport channels.

It has recently concluded a five-year deal for the rights to the Premier Soccer League, valued at R1,6-billion, a masterstroke for any broadcaster looking to go after the emerging black middle class. The middle-income market is seen as the future of subscription broadcasting in South Africa and all three new entrants that were granted licences by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa recently admitted that this is the market they would be targeting.

Supersport also has a stranglehold on South Africa’s two other main sporting codes — rugby and cricket. With the Tri-Nations, Six Nations, Super 14, Curry Cup and Vodacom Cup rights taken care of, Supersport has left the new entrants with club rugby and university rugby to dabble in. Similarly in cricket, where Supersport has the rights to the Standard Bank Cup one-day tournament and the Supersport Series four-day tournament, there is little room to move.

Add to that rights for the next two Olympics and all does not bode well for the new entrants. But there are a few opportunities still out there. One opportunity that has reared its head of late is the multimillion-dollar breakaway Indian Cricket League (ICL), a rebel league that is set to launch in November, which has thus far attracted big-name players such as former Test captains Brian Lara of the West Indies and Inzamam-ul-Haq of Pakistan.

Click here to read the full report, posted on M&G Online.