26 January 2024

Commercial / Contracts



Sports Business



It was a David-and-Goliath-esque moment for not just South African football fans, but for all football lovers across the African continent. Facing off against the mighty SuperSport (“SS”), South Africa’s, and Africa’s, most established sports broadcasting giant, was a relatively unknown entity: New World TV (“NW TV”); situated in a bid to secure the lucrative right to broadcast various Confédération Africaine de Football (“CAF”) competitions. The result seemed to be a foregone conclusion, not only does SS have deep pockets, but they also have a long and storied past of successfully bringing Africa’s favourite sport to its millions of fans. Yet, in a stunning upset, it was NW TV, partnered together with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (the “SABC”), that secured the coveted media rights for the continent's premier football tournament, the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (“AFCON”), and a plethora of other high profile CAF events. So just how was such an upset able to happen? What foundational elements existed within South Africa’s football broadcasting structure to enable such a shock? And just why was the SABC handpicked by NW TV as its preferred partner when dealing with South Africa? Peeling back the curtain on some of these answers highlights a, perhaps, more clandestine nature than first appears.


The Emergence of the NW TV Underdog


A New [Continental] Order


NW TV, founded in 2015 in Togo, was primarily known for broadcasting niche programming, with a focus on community sports and cultural events. The Togolese grounding meant that initially focusing on Francophone countries would be beneficial for their growth and strategy.


Their first zenith came in July 2021, through a FIFA announcement that NW TV would be had obtained exclusivity as FIFA’s pay-TV partner in 19 French-speaking sub-Saharan African countries in respect of the 2022 Men’s World Cup in Qatar and the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.


But with the backing of prominent business figures, and a clear vision for revolutionizing sports broadcasting, they set their sights on establishing continental dominance, through African football’s biggest prize – AFCON 2023.


On the December 3, 2023, the second zenith was represented by the major victory of securing the exclusive broadcast rights for all CAF competitions in sub-Saharan Africa from 2023 to 2025 (the “Deal”). The Deal included the prestigious AFCON in both 2023 and 2025, as well as 11 other tournaments across men's and women's football, youth levels, and club competitions.


The Deal covers both free-to-air and pay-TV rights across 46 countries, making NWTV the go-to destination for millions of African football fans for the duration of the Deal’s term. This strategic move significantly increased NW TV's reach and influence, solidifying its position as a major player in the continent's sporting landscape for the foreseeable future. By nabbing the exclusive rights to both free and paid viewing in 85% of Africa’s countries, NW TV stands peerless in Africa’s football broadcasting space.


While the official Deal value hasn't been disclosed by CAF, reports estimate it to be around R1.5 billion (roughly $90 million). This reflects the growing value of African football broadcasting rights and the fierce competition for them amongst various industry players.


The Deal stands to bring some alleged potential advantages, namely:


  • NW TV's guarantee of greater accessibility for African football fans, potentially boosting viewership and engagement;
  • The hefty contract secures a significant revenue stream for CAF, allowing them to further invest in football development across the continent; and
  • NW TV's commitment to broadcasting in local languages provides a more inclusive platform for African football, showcasing its diverse talent and stories.


The announcements by executives of both CAF and NW TV was instructive, and spoke to below-the-surface sentiments in the minds of both organizations. CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe (“Motsepe”) said: “The Media Rights Agreement with [NW TV] is the biggest investment by a Pan-African broadcaster in CAF’s history. We are very proud to partner with such a globally competitive and innovative broadcasting company which has adapted quickly to the changing demands and viewing patterns of the modern football audience. [NW TV] is also introducing new ways of consuming video content through its strong partnerships with various mobile operators and its television networks.” (Own Emphasis Added)


Meanwhile, Mr Nimonka Kolani, Managing Director of NW TV Group said: "[NW TV] pays special attention to ensuring that all Africans can access their competitions at an affordable price. We are delighted that CAF trusts us and this opportunity given to us to be the gate keeper of their rights will allow us to strengthen the relationship with the public through these unique moments of events organized by CAF whose attractiveness is becoming more and more important." (Own Emphasis Added)


Overall, the Deal appears to be a win-win situation for both parties. It promises a brighter future for African football, increased accessibility for fans, and a powerful platform for the sport to thrive on the continent and beyond. Adaptability. Access. Affordability. The three thematic elements of Africa’s new continental broadcasting order. But are these elements commercially sustainable and does NW TV’s actual (or expected) reach match its ambitions? In 2022, NW TV reported a Togolese subscriber base of 100,000. Whereas SS, through its South African holding company MultiChoice, has a domestic reach of 7.8 million, and a rest of Africa active subscriber base of 8.9 million. If NW TV is to successfully realize all of its promises in relation to the Deal, it needs to ensure that its reach is significantly expanded.


Going Local


Establishing dominance requires a graduated approach, especially for a continent comprising of some 54 countries. The vast array of cultures, languages, religions and interests means that no “one size fits all” approach can be used. It demands calculation, deliberation, chance, and opportunity. For South Africa, a unique approach was needed for a country where the strongest broadcaster and holder of various other sports’ broadcast rights, SS, was privately-owned, which fed into the need of availability of content for consumers.


NW TV’s strategy as it related to the broadcast of CAF competitions in the South African market appears to have been multifaceted. First, they recognized the connectivity (not financial) power of the SABC – a household name with national reach. Partnering with the public broadcaster allowed them to leverage its infrastructure and audience base, a factor traditionally lacking for NW TV.


Secondly, NW TV understood the importance of affordability. SABC’s bid promised free-to-air coverage of AFCON 2023. This resonated deeply with millions of South Africans, particularly in impoverished communities, who could now watch their national team compete on the biggest stage without financial barriers.


It helped that the SABC had already seemed to have targeted a partnership with NW TV prior to the announcement of any local deal. NW TV stated that “[the Deal] is the first time an African company has obtained exclusive rights to broadcast CAF competitions. The [NW TV] group achieved a feat by winning this contract against other large African and international companies.” In response to the Deal, the SABC through its sports publication made a comment which laid the groundwork for things to come, “The conclusion of [the Deal] brings to an end to the debate for the much sought-after and yet pragmatic CAF TV rights for Sub-Saharan Africa, which were previously held by the African Union of Broadcasters (AUB), [SS], and Canal Plus.” (Own Emphasis Added)


And so it came to pass that on January 5, 2024, the SABC announced the acquisition of the exclusive 2023 AFCON broadcasting rights and the rest of select CAF events for the 2024 season (the “SA Deal”).


SABC: Rekindling a Long-Lost Flame


For the SABC, acquiring the SA Deal was not just about profit the lucrative advertising revenue promised it; it was about reclaiming a lost legacy. Having previously held broadcasting rights for major sporting events, the public broadcaster witnessed its influence progressively dwindle in the face of private competitors like SS. Much of this downfall can be attributed to malfeasance, the advent of streaming and other viewership options, and a lack of adaptability to a market which contained consumers distrustful of governmental entities. The SA Deal presented SABC with a golden opportunity to reconnect with viewers and reassert its role as the nation's sports storyteller.


The SABC-NW TV partnership (collectively, the “Partnership”) offered a perfect symbiosis. The SABC brought the audience and the historical significance, while NW TV provided the financial muscle, albeit with the help of South African-based sponsors Hollywoodbets and McDonald’s, and fresh perspective. Together, they presented a compelling case to CAF. Adaptability. Access. Affordability. All three (3) elements neatly packaged between the Partnership.


However, reading between the lines of the various press releases of the SA Deal, it is hard to not have some suspicions as to the true reason why the Partnership fell so congruently into place.


In SABC’s press release dated January 5, 2024, “[the SA Deal] put football lovers and commercial partners in the prime position to experience the world’s biggest football events . . . making this great content available to all South Africans for free and with no uncompetitive platform blockages”: (Own Emphasis Added). The press release further stressed the “promise of making all world-class events available to all South Africans with no barrier or cost to entry” (Own Emphasis Added). These sentences stress the idea of affordability and access but not as a celebration of football viewership for South Africans. No, they read more like economics –subtle digs by stakeholders who cry foul over a monopolistic entity who threatens to destroy a free market. These allegations are often unfounded, and the entity is labelled as monopolistic because that route is easier than trying to acknowledge their legitimately acquired market dominance. Such is the case with SS, who have spent considerable time, resources, and effort to position and build themselves into the continent’s most reliable and trusted sports broadcaster. Unpacking SS’s established legacy makes NW TV’s acquiring of CAF’s broadcast rights even more confusing.


SuperSport – The Long-Standing Giant of African Sports Broadcasting


SS, the Goliath in this David-and-Goliath clash, was naturally the frontrunner. Years of experience, an established infrastructure, and a loyal subscriber base (far above anything of NW TV’s) were just some of the many elements on their side. Indeed, SS had successfully broadcast the 2023 Rugby World Cup (the “Rugby World Cup”), an event arguably bigger than anything which makes up CAF’s broadcast portfolio. It seemed commercially sensible that either of the Deal or the SA Deal be awarded to them, given their impeccable track record. However, one can imagine their focus on subscription (think, access), potentially worked against them in the eyes of CAF.


Ultimately, the combination of SABC's prospective audience reach (through the free viewing model), NW TV's apparent innovative approach, and a commitment to free-to-air access proved too formidable for SS. CAF recognized the potential for wider engagement, at least in theory, and social impact, and awarded the rights to the Partnership. Whether the possible reach is bigger than what SS could offer is doubtful.


As a result, SS suffered a loss on two (2) levels. First, the initial negotiation for the Deal, with CAF opting to go the exclusivity route with NW TV. Second, losing out on the sub-licensing rights to SABC within South Africa. Ultimately, however, “MultiChoice, reached a commercially viable agreement with rightsholders [NW TV] to broadcast the [AFCON.]” This came two (2) days after SS had indicated that they would not be broadcasting the tournament. In announcing this turn of events, Nimonka Kolani, an executive at NW TV, said, “[b]y securing the rights to [AFCON] 2023 under the leadership of [Motsepe], [SS] and [NW TV] prove that nothing is more important than the happiness of Africans who wish to follow the exploits of their favourite team during the biggest football competition in Africa.” SS expended considerable efforts to go above and beyond to deliver viewing of the tournament to its subscriber base.


So, SS’s clout inevitably aided it in getting the ability to broadcast AFCON, a feat made even more important by the fact that the South African national team, Bafana Bafana, is playing in it. But at what cost? It can be surmised that SS must have paid a significant premium for such rights. Additionally, any possible restrictions on advertising and sponsorship inventory on the broadcast itself are not known.


Spending Big is Not Always Winning Big


It is hard to look at how everything has unfolded and not raise an eyebrow. SABC has oftentimes butted heads with SS, from engagements in numerous antitrust (competition) legal proceedings against them, and having a general disdain for the way in which their (relatively) low financial position hamstrings them from being able to “fairly” (in their eyes) compete with SS in the broadcast space. This reached a head when SS obtained the exclusive broadcast rights to the Rugby World Cup and SABC could not reach a satisfactory consideration fee for the sub-licensing of those rights. This was something which SS was well within its rights to do. SS have worked for years to get into positions to exercise exclusivity rights of broadcasts. Additionally, they have brought immeasurable benefits to South African sports as whole, through exposure, financial investment, and a commitment to championing the story of South African athletes. A resolution was inevitably reached that allowed SABC to screen the games, but a bitter taste was surely left in their mouth. To see the SA Deal concluded and have it thrust SS into the opposite position so soon after, does merit pause for concern.


Broadcast rights have a chequered past within football, illustrated none better than the complex scandals that emerged in the U.S. Department of Justice’s RICO case against corrupt high-ranking FIFA officials. They can be a tool for development, growth, and sustainability. But they can also be a means for giving effect to backroom dealings. In the case of the Deal, the hope is that it is the former. Previously, Kwese Sports and HiTV tried to use the purchase of broadcast rights for exorbitant fees as a platform for their growth and establishment on the continent. Their sources of funding eventually dried out, and issues of their scalability in short timeframes were laid bare. Simply put, SS’s exists on the African continent not just because of their financial muscle, but because they understand the intricacies of how to play the long game.




The SA Deal is a watershed moment for both SABC and NW TV. It signifies the potential for collaboration between established players and fresh entrants to break into a competitive landscape. More importantly, it aims to bring even more viewers to CAF’s doorstep.


The landscape of African football broadcasting in South Africa has undergone a seismic shift, with the introduction of a surprising new alliance: the upstart NW TV and the national broadcaster, SABC. As the final whistle blows on AFCON, South Africans will have witnessed not just a football tournament, but a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation. In the end, it is the fans who will have emerged victorious, with the promise of experiencing the passion of African football, free and unfiltered, right on their screens. But these promises are still just that, and it will take a while to see if these laudable objectives are actually achieved. This David-and-Goliath victory, secured through the both the Deal and SA Deal for various CAF tournaments, marks a turning point with far-reaching implications not just for South Africa, but potentially for the entire continent.


Adaptability. Access. Affordability. This is the new continental order of sport broadcasting in Africa. But sight should not be lost of the fact that SS is the continent's established sports broadcasting giant. NW TV and CAF should consider tapping into their expertise and network, to advance the sport of football in Africa. What remains to be seen is whether the Deal and SA Deal positively moves the goal posts or is another instance demanding a red card.



DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the author and don't necessarily reflect those of Javelin Sports Consulting. The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. It is not a substitute for consulting with a qualified legal professional. The content is based on general knowledge and research up to the publication date and may not reflect the most current legal developments. No attorney-client relationship is formed by reading this article. Always seek the independent advice of a legal practitioner regarding your specific legal concerns.

- By Shane Wafer And Nick Flowers, Esq.