South Africa: SABC launches a dedicated sports channel in run-up to World Cup

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By the time the first whistle is blown to signal the beginning of the 2010 FIFA World Cup at Soccer City in Johannesburg in 499 days, the national broadcaster will have a dedicated sports channel. This will enable the SABC to provide more content about the World Cup and other related content, said SABC group executive for content enterprise Mvuzo Mbebe last week, Monday, 26 January 2009.

The announcement was made during the press conference that was held at the SABC offices in Auckland Park. The SABC revealed its plans regarding technology, programming and the marketing for the world cup.

The SABC is working at developing a sports centre, a hub for all the live and the non-live feeds during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The SABC will also be upgrading its radio broadcast facilities, replacing all redundant equipment in all the SABC regions with digital equipment. This will enable regions to operate and manage basically any production without relying on head office for basic equipment requests. Four mini satellite radio outside broadcast units are planned to deliver live broadcast via satellite, with the project expected to commence no later than June 2009.

Mbebe also said, “The public broadcaster is in partnership with other corporates to build 100 low power transmitter networks in areas that do not have signal. The SABC is well underway in establishing a channel offering for digital terrestrial television (DTT) currently in trial phase.”

Nine new sites have been switched on by Sentech - namely four in Kgalagadi in the North West, five in central Karoo. Recently, ICASA has approved 11 licence applications. It is planning to have 56% population coverage by the end of the first year of operation and above 60% coverage by the time of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The SABC also launched its Feel It! Campaign, aimed at encouraging South Africans to start being excited about the upcoming world cup. “The SABC 2010 objectives go beyond the delivery of the tournament broadcast - they address the SABC's commitment to providing access to the tournament for all South Africans and the creation of a legacy of Africa's first World Cup,” said Peter Kwele, recently appointed GM SABC 2010 Project Unit.

When asked if the 500 days countdown meant that the official broadcaster will start intensifying its marketing plans, Kwele said that this is the time to start communicating all the messages that the SABC has been working on. “What we [are] going to do now is to communicate more, as well as encouraging South Africans and Africans to feel the World Cup. This is an exciting time for the SABC and we are looking forward to bringing South Africans the 2010 FIFA World Cup, whether it is through their television, radio and public viewing events,” he said. The SABC will be embarking on road shows throughout the African continent in partnership with other broadcasters to promote and encourage other Africans to be a part of the African World Cup.

In partnership with Mbongeni Ngema, Darrel James and Jeremy James, the SABC is working on co-producing a movie, as well as a musical, about one of SA's greatest football stars, Patrick Ace “Mabhekaphansi” Ntsoelengoe. The film, Ace, will narrate the highs and the lows of the extraordinary life of Ntsoelengoe, who was a social role model for many. Presley Chweyenyagae, star of Oscar-winning Tsotsi, will play the lead character in this rags-to-riches story.