Cricket South Africa are hopeful the arrival of Preity Zinta as the final franchise owner in the T20 Global League will expedite the acquisition of a broadcaster for the event, which starts in less than two months. With the first match of the 57-game tournament scheduled for November 3, CSA are yet to confirm where fans, both locally and internationally, will be able to watch the competition. Haroon Lorgat, the board's chief executive officer, however, is confident a deal will be sewn up soon.
"That's been a perennial question, and why would I do a deal before Preity Zinta comes on board?" Lorgat said, at the unveiling of Zinta as the owner of the Stellenbosch Kings. "Now we're getting down to buttoning that down but let me not go into questions in detail."
Lorgat hinted that pan-African broadcaster SuperSport may be the only viable option. "In South Africa we're in the situation where there's one pretty strong broadcaster - you can guess as good as I can who we're talking to," he said. "But it's a piece of work we've now got to do properly, but we wanted to do it at the right time. I could have sold these broadcast rights 12 months ago, and I can tell you what Preity has done in the last week has pumped up what we're expecting ourselves. So we're in no rush to go and do something and then say we shouldn't have."
Pay-channel SuperSport have had the rights to broadcast South African cricket for several seasons. Although home matches are shared with the public broadcaster, the SABC, SuperSport do not face much competition. eTV is the other free-to-air service in Africa, who won the rights for cricket coverage once, in the early 2000s. A potential threat to SuperSport could be Kwese-ESPN, a newcomer on the scene who have launched across the African continent and have acquired rights to the NBA.
For now, SuperSport remain in prime position to secure the T20 Global League rights and all that remains is to agree on a deal. The sticking point, however, appears to be price. In May, a spokesperson for the station told ESPNcricinfo that SuperSport understood they had the rights to all domestic twenty-over cricket played in South Africa. However, the deal was concluded before the T20 Global League existed.
Since the T20 Global League is a "commercial venture", as Lorgat put it in an interview in June, CSA were looking for a new rights deal. "We would look to see who would bid the price that we need to achieve in order make the model work," Lorgat said at a press conference at the time. SuperSport have since confirmed they are in negotiations over this deal. No time frame has been stipulated for its conclusion.
The absence of a confirmed broadcast partner, however, did not worry Zinta, who said she was certain a deal would be struck soon and even asked whether she would "get some brownie points" if she played some part in hiking it. Asked whether she considered her investment safe in a league which has not been able to demonstrate its value yet, Zinta pointed to the Big Bash, the Australian domestic T20 tournament, whose rights deal is expected to triple when the next contract is signed.