The continued absence of fans at soccer stadiums has contributed to a steep decline in TV viewership numbers of the DStv Premiership.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in fans being prohibited from attending live sporting events due to safety protocols, a concerning drop in television viewership has occurred.
Domestic football is approaching two years of being played without fans and according to an alarming report by City Press, data has revealed the steep decline in viewership numbers of local soccer.
The DStv Premiership is known to be pay-channel MultiChoice subsidiary SuperSport TV's premier content bringing in a huge bulk of viewers.
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"Using the Orlando Pirates versus Kaizer Chiefs Soweto derby as a benchmark, sports analytics firm Nielsen Sport compiled a study to see how audience behaviour had changed during the pandemic," the City Press report revealed.
"The last Soweto derby match with fans in attendance, in February 2020, was watched on TV by 9.8 million people.
"In contrast, the most recent derby – in November – had a viewership of only 4.2 million. Load shedding implemented by Eskom was also a factor in the decline, according to the report. About 7.3 million people watched the Soweto showdown in March last year," reads the report which also quotes Nielsen managing director Jean Willers.
The derby viewership numbers from the last five fixtures stand at 11.2 million (November 2019), 9.8 million (February 2020), 8 million (January 2021), 7.4 million (March 2021) and the public broadcaster SABC accounts for the bulk of the numbers.
Last FIVE Soweto derby viewership numbers:November 2019: 11.2 million
February 2020: 9.8 million
January 2021: 8 million
March 2021: 7.4 million
"There was a sense that TV viewership would go up because people weren’t allowed to watch matches live at stadiums, but that was incorrect. The numbers have actually gone in the opposite direction and fewer people are watching football and sport in general on TV.
"People have started to lose interest and have moved on to other things. Load shedding also played a huge role last year. When people aren’t allowed to go to stadiums and there’s also no electricity to watch TV, you can expect the numbers to be severely affected. Unless some sort of normality is restored, the research paints a picture of an industry in rapid decline," says Willers.
The PSL recorded losses of R9 million in the last financial statement and now has the broadcast company sponsoring the league (DStv Premiership), reserve league (Diski Challenge) and the newly established Compact Cup starting this weekend.
With a shrinking audience, football runs the risk of struggling to attract sponsors and the industry may reach a point of no return.
Meanwhile, EFF leader Julius Malema demanded both the government and PSL leadership allow the safe return of soccer fans to local sporting events.
”We want our soccer back, we want our entertainment back, we want our festivals back and we want our economy opened for all of us, for the youth of KwaZulu-Natal to get their jobs back," Malema said."
The Minister of Sport, Nathi Mthethwa swiftly responded to the growing calls for stadiums to be reopened by calling those demands 'misguided and opportunistic'.
"Regrettably, such calls are uninformed in light of the ongoing action taken by DSAC over the last few months to enable access to stadiums, in a manner that protects both lives and livelihoods," Mthethwa said.