SABC seeks global audience for its international channel

Distribution

The SABC is in talks with international pay television providers to carry SABC International on their platforms, in a bid to reach wider audiences for its 24-hour international news channel and win new revenue streams.

The public broadcaster said this week that it was in negotiations with European, US and African pay TV providers. It is also in discussions with local subscription broadcaster MultiChoice to add SABC International to its channels. Both MultiChoice and the SABC confirmed that the talks were under way, but could not say when they would be concluded.

Kaizer Kganyago, the spokesperson for the SABC, said SABC International was "a very different product" from SABC Africa and would not be a replacement for SABC Africa. So far, SABC International is on the unpopular Sentech Vivid platform, whose signal covers sub-Saharan Africa. "In America we are broadcast on MHz Networks and reach more than 2 million viewers," said Kganyago. "We are also carried overnight on SABC2."

It is not clear whether MultiChoice will carry the 24-hour news service after it terminated the SABC Africa contract, which it had been paying millions of rands a year to air.

The SABC has correspondents across the globe, with bureaus in countries such as the UK and the US. Although the international news channel is generating income for the SABC, it has yet to break even. But Kganyago is adamant that this will be achieved in the medium term.

The public broadcaster is looking desperately for new revenue streams. Last year its revenue was R4.7 billion, an increase of 9.1 percent. Total expenditure, however, rose 7.6 percent to R4.4 billion.

Its impairments of programmes, including sports and films, rose 22 percent to R1.9 billion. It was forced to write off the amount because it bought programmes but failed to broadcast within the period required by the contracts.