New Zealand Rugby conducted something of an experiment last week when the Bledisloe Cup test between the All Blacks and Australia was streamed live and made available on-demand on www.youtube.com/allblacks to more than 45 countries where the digital rights hadn’t been allocated exclusively to a broadcaster. So how did it go? And should Sky be worried?
New Zealand Rugby (it recently got rid of the Union) is on a mission to expand its sponsor base and attract big international brands (a potential consequence of this is local sponsors feeling slightly overwhelmed and Telecom recently pulled out of its All Blacks sponsorship). Its latest scalp was P&G's Duracell brand, but there are no doubt be more on its radar. And, with the largest social media audience of any New Zealand brand (2.135 million Facebook fans) and 70 percent of the three million strong online community offshore, Nick Brown, general manager of public affairs, says it’s a priority to reach as many of that audience as possible.
"To do this, and to grow our offshore fan base, we are continuously looking to try new things in the digital channels and content space," says Brown. "We also have major global partners such as Adidas and AIG with whom we work closely in terms of growing the profile of our national teams in offshore markets."
Brown says it is very happy with how the first trial went and it was very popular with All Blacks fans offshore.
"Despite only promoting the service the night before, we had just over 12,000 viewers logged onto the stream live or as play-back during the match on Saturday night. By Thursday morning the on-demand views had taken the total number of views to over 22,000. The numbers were strongest in the US where roughly 45 percent of views came from on the night of the test. All up we are really pleased with how it went and are looking at some more digital opportunities to build on this in the future."
Sky holds the exclusive rights in New Zealand and, for local matches, produces the content that is sent around the world to other broadcasters. So is this a shot across the bow of Sky—and for rights holders that operate in terms of geographical boundaries rather than copyright? Head of corporate commsKirsty Way says anything that strengthens the All Black brand is good for everybody, including Sky.
She says New Zealand Rugby has access to Sky's feed. And "they can do with that what they like."
It's not thought there's any extra payment involved in providing this feed (given the importance of the All Blacks to Sky, it's probably in its best interests to keep them happy). But, with clubs like Manchester United selling subscriptions direct to consumers, could this be an option for the All Blacks in the future? And, as we've seen with Google buying the rights to the Indian Premier League cricket to broadcast live on YouTube or last year's limited live Wimbledon coverage on YouTube, could these global players push up the price for broadcasting rights?
Time will tell, Way says.
The test was available on YouTube in:
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- El Salvador
- Trinidad and Tobago