New online broadcaster disrupts sports TV market

The cash-strapped SABC will show live boxing at a fraction of the cost on Saturday.
The cash-strapped SABC will show live boxing at a fraction of the cost on Saturday.
Image: BackpagePix

Live boxing returns to SABC screens on Saturday night courtesy of an online broadcaster intent on disrupting the traditional sports television market.

Sport and Entertainment International (SEI) founder Emile van Zyl says they cut their teeth as a production company filming challenging events like the Duzi and Cape Epic before taking the step up as a broadcaster.

“We’re not a streaming company. We do mobile broadcasting,” he said.

The business model is simple: a 50/50 rights share with the sports bodies that sees an equal split in sponsorships.

“Federations [traditionally] sell off their content and then it’s gone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go to broadcasters to buy content [back] for federations,” Van Zyl told TimesLIVE this week.

He’s been talking to 27 sports federations‚ with deals in place with 10 of them‚ including cricket‚ rugby‚ netball‚ water polo and even wrestling.

SEI is not competing against the big money properties like national teams and mainstream competitions‚ rather going in at a lower level where participation numbers are higher.

Everything is sponsorship-driven ... We are creating potential big sponsors of tomorrow.
Emile van Zyl

They do Golden Lions club rugby and their cricket brand is the 12-year-old National Premier League, which has more than 1 million followers across its social media platforms‚ Van Zyl said.

“Everything is sponsorship-driven. We take it to an internal agency and we take it to the advertisers. We are creating potential big sponsors of tomorrow. This is the key.

“The days of advertisers paying R150‚000 for a 30-second advert are over. We’re selling ad space‚ a package for the day‚ for R50‚000. We’re creating a new advertising model as well.”

The deal with Saturday’s boxing tournament‚ headlined by welterweight Tulani Mbenge‚ is different‚ however. The promoter is paying SEI a nominal fee and they in turn have done a deal with is SABC which is carrying some of the costs‚ like the commentators.

It’s a win-win situation all round. SEI gets its product onto free-to-air TV‚ which benefits the fighters and the promoter. The cash-strapped SABC gets to show live boxing at a fraction of the cost.

Satellite link-ups are exorbitant‚ but dialling in through broadband‚ even at high definition‚ is 10% of the cost‚ said Van Zyl.

“Online broadcasting is the way. A total of 80% of the last soccer World Cup was viewed online. Guys are watching more and more online.”

Ironically‚ Covid-19 helped to grow SEI. “People were looking for content when they were sitting at home for three months. And data is becoming cheaper.”

SEI does offer pay-per-view options‚ although Van Zyl insists he plans to keep viewing free for SA audiences. He describes SEI as a small broadcaster that’s about to become big‚ adding he is living his dream.

He recalled a conversation from 16 years ago with a senior official from one of the country’s established broadcasters.

“I told him, ‘You guys are selective with sport, you need to get it out to the masses‚ you are elitist’. I told him one day I’m going to have an alternative sports broadcaster and he laughed at me.”


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