TV blackout: Lagardere dispute prompts SuperSport to cut CAF chord with immediate effect

By Osasu Obayiuwana

November 8 – The consequences of CAF’s decision to terminate its contract with Lagardere Sports will have an immediate impact on the ability of African football fans to watch games on television. 

SuperSport, the pan-African pay TV producer, based in South Africa – but operating throughout sub-Saharan Africa – has, in an internal memo to its staff, ordered them not to broadcast any CAF organised games, effective from Friday November 8.

In an internal circular sent to SuperSport staff from the company’s Randberg offices in Johannesburg, SuperSport said: “Please note that due to a legal impasse between CAF and Lagardere [Sports] – SuperSport will not be broadcasting any CAF football with immediate effect.  This affects the AFCON U23 in Egypt starting today [Friday], as well as the AFCON 2021 qualifiers starting next Wednesday. Please immediately remove all related promo material, and advertising material.”

SuperSport, with a $130 million TV deal with CAF, through Lagardere Sports, is the number one broadcast partner of the African football body in the continent. Only the $400 million deal that CAF has with Qatari-based pay-TV broadcaster, BEIN Sport, surpasses that of SuperSport.

For CAF, the long-term implications could be seismic, as not only will it lose revenue from television rights sales but it will also impact on the confederation’s ability to deliver value for its sponsors.

SuperSport has been cutting its TV rights fees aggressively for months and the CAF agreement represents a significant investment for the broadcaster.

The dispute with Lagardere and the likelihood that neither CAF or Lagardere would be prepared to guarantee the existing contract terms, gives the broadcaster a backdoor route out of the agreement and into a renegotiation.

The worry for CAF is that there is no obvious regional rival to SuperSport who would pick up the TV contracts at the same value and certainly SuperSport will not pay the same value in a renegotiation – assuming they can be persuaded to pick up the full rights package again.

With beIN Sport having already warned broadcasters that it is no longer treating its TV acquisitions as exclusive (due to signal piracy by Saudi Arabian-based beoutQ) and that this will be reflected in the prices they are prepared to pay for rights fees, CAF could be looking at losing as much as $260 million in income from their ill-fated Lagardere dispute.

As FIFA made a big play for CAF members’ World Cup 2022 and 2026 qualifying TV rights and achieved its objective of aggregating them under one sales function, its commercial involvement in the region, via its control of CAF’s central activities, is destabilising what is already a disrupted commercial marketplace.

Contact the writer of this story, Osasu Obayiuwana, at moc.l1600986209labto1600986209ofdlr1600986209owedi1600986209sni@o1600986209fni1600986209