I read an article on this and thought it was quite interesting.
Satellite TV’s stronghold over rugby could soon be threatened by online media streaming broadcasters like Netflix, and not just in South Africa. Watching rugby via the internet on a smart TV could become the preferred means of following the sport around the world in the not too distant future.
During the 1990’s Louis Luyt, the Transvaal rugby union president ordered the SABC camera crew out of Ellis Park and said it was no longer a freebie or something like that. Basically shortly after that event took place, right up until today M-Net and then DSTV established a monopoly over rugby broadcasting in South Africa.
For many years I appreciated the service they offered. It was never cheap but the rugby matches themselves were always had high quality camera work and they never held back on offering suitable rugby variety. However most of their commentators were and still are below par but this paled in comparison to how weak their so-called in-studio experts generally were and again still are. There are notable exceptions.
Along the way I developed the opinion that the lack of competition that DSTV had through their SuperSport channel was having a negative effect on SA rugby’s development. As fans we just were not being educated or encouraged to think smarter about how the game was being played or how it should be placed. This was due to a huge lack of constructiveness in what was being said about how rugby matches unfolded in terms of tactics, laws and player performances. Well-paid “gurus” many with first-hand experience of playing the wonderful game at the highest level muttered on for their allocated time and basically said nothing apart from the obvious and seemed to have great difficulties interpreting situations and conveying accurate assessments of what actually happened on the field of play, be it due to language barriers or just not having that required gift to articulate. Basically a lot of wrong people for the job were hired.
What DSTV’s SuperSport really needed was a competitor to push them to be better, so that they contracted smarter analysts and sharper commentators. If the rugby watching public had been exposed to 20 years of thinking outside the box, I honestly think it would have filtered through to our players and coaches of all ages and the result would have been a much better brand of rugby than we’ve generally become so disappointed in watching our pro Saffa teams play.
For school rugby, it’s also come to the fore that SuperSport was reluctant to share broadcasting of the Craven Week / Academy Week matches they did not cover with streaming companies. It seemed they would rather the public not have access to SBR than allowing a potential future rival the opportunity to gain a foothold and profit off their marketing of the event. In these more challenging times the smart transition would be for them to explore the streaming market and place alternatives like B-field matches on their online Showmax platform. That hasn’t happened though.
But anyway! I think many already suspected or knew that Netflix was eating into DSTV’s profits mainly because it works out to be a cheaper and good quality alternative particularly for people who have little interest in sport. This might just be the tip of the iceberg. No doubt new opponents will enter the local market to rival Netflix and they may target acquiring those exclusive rugby broadcasting rights as an opportunity to establish a foothold overnight. I suspect that over the next decade South African supporter rugby interests will gradually migrate to watching European club rugby over the Southern Hemisphere offering or the Currie Cup. So it is going to become harder to hang onto the local fan base if their preferred viewing products are overseas. An online media company that enters the picture and outbids DSTV for Euro rugby and perhaps even UEFA footballing nations rights might mark the start of very difficult times for DSTV.
Data costs are still outrageously high in South Africa compared with other parts of the world so this is a saving grace for the time being.
Sky, the satellite TV monopoly in New Zealand has woken up to the crisis. Their revenues have taken a knock due to Netflix. Sky has responded to the threat by cutting prices. Opinion over there still favours Sky maintaining control of rugby because the company seems to understand the market. If an outside competitor does outbid Sky for rugby rights, it would amount a short term gain for the NZR but could be harmful to their long term development and interest in the sport if the broadcasting product was overpriced.
Interesting times ahead.