How the SABC missed a golden digital opportunity with Bafana/Niger’s AFCON qualifier

South African soccer fans experienced a Bafana Bafana AFCON 2012 qualifying match broadcast blackout AGAIN! This time around the SABC compounded the situation by failing to mitigate this risk, despite having known about it as far back as in May 2011 when broadcast rights negotiations started with SportFive.

Assuming that SABC could not do anything about SportFive’s exorbitant broadcast rights fee of a reported R5 million, the public broadcaster committed the following cardinal errors that could have been avoided:

  • There was a failure to prepare for this distinct possibility by not coming up with an alternative plan that could have included leveraging of the SABC’s vast digital infrastructure and social media reach for provision of alternative soccer news feed. I shall expand on this point later.
  • There was an announcement just before the game’s official starting time by Kaizer Kganyago, the SABC’s spin doctor, on Laduma that the SABC has clinched a last-minute deal with SportFive for a delayed live broadcast of the game. This got everybody excited.
Soccer Laduma FB Post
Soccer Laduma Facebook post

However, SABC did not live up to its promise. To make matters worse, there was scant and uncoordinated communication on this matter, which left anxious soccer fans angry and frustrated.

Soccer411 FB Post
Soccer411 Facebook post
  • There was no contingency plan for Laduma studio commentators. In the end, the 4 poor souls – Mike Mangena, Kujo Amankwah,  Marks Maponyane and the Laduma studio anchor  – had to settle for reviewing old games and improvising when there was little or no relevant content to work with, despite the fact that #Bafana and #AFCON were trending on Twitter as the game was progressing. Tweets from these trending topics could have become the key source for relevant content that was then going to be used to update the viewing public!

Social media, lead ably by Twitter with its # feature,  saved the day as the SABC continued to be found wanting. Fortunately for social netizens who were keen to be kept updated, SAFA, Kickoff Magazine, Supersport and a few other  journalists who were in Niger gave live social commentary on the game from start to finish.

#Bafana tweet
#Bafana tweet

SAFA deserves a special mention for improvising, given bandwidth challenges at the soccer game venue.

SAFA tweet re low bandwidth
SAFA’s tweet

It is a big concern for me that SABC failed to tap into social media for live feeds, when it had every opportunity to do so. Consider the following facts:

  • The SABC has 3 TV channels, 19 radio stations and a dedicated news channel. All of these stations have websitesmobisites and social network presence (MetroFM’s Total Bliss, which is not a prime time show, has over 150 000 fans).
  • The SABC has a comprehensive mobile messaging system that gets used by all its TV and radio channels for SMS communications. Remember SMS messages that scroll at the bottom of your TV screen during Morning Live and Live music programme?
  • The SABC has more than 19 million daily viewers and listeners. I estimate that the broadcaster has a database of at least 1 million active cellphone numbers that get amassed as SMS’s are sent to various TV and radio programmes daily, and this is 5% of total viewers and listeners.

My takeout is that the SABC’s digital communication system is not integrated. For, If this was the case, a lot could have been done using social, mobile and Internet media to turn the adverse situation experienced yesterday into a major advantage. To make the point, I believe that SAFA should be held accountable by Bafana Bafana fans as the national soccer body that signed the broadcasting rights to SABC, but the association got positive mileage from its creative use of digital technology to deliver live coverage on the game, and thereby diverted attention away from itself.

SAFA Gratitude
SAFA shown gratitude

Thus, SABC missed a big opportunity to become a hero despite its access to digital technology that could have been leveraged when it mattered most.



  • Nuffdotty – where thoughts on the subject of education, mostly relating to South Africa, are shared
  • Diski4Life – a blog about development of South African soccer post World Cup 2010


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