Spark and TVNZ win Rugby World Cup 2019 rights

Spark and TVNZ’s bid to secure the rights to bring New Zealanders the Rugby World Cup 2019 has been successful.

Coverage of the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021, the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018, and World Rugby U20 Championships 2018 and 2019 are also included in the win.

Spark and TVNZ’s bid was bigger than that of Sky and when news broke at the end of last month that Sky was not the preferred bidder, Sky made a number of observations including: “Sport broadcasting is a competitive business, and while we are disappointed not to be the preferred bidder, it’s an economic reality that we can’t have every match of every sport that New Zealanders like to watch.”

Spark and TVNZ’s win means New Zealanders will be able to stream Rugby World Cup 2019 matches and related content live or on-demand over their home broadband or mobile connection.

And despite it being a win for Spark, the service will offer both free and paid content and will be available to all New Zealanders, not just Spark customers.

The coverage will be accessible via New Zealand’s 5 million-plus mobile connections (3G/4G) and 1.5 million broadband subscribers. According to the release, Spark will be going out to other network operators and providers to see how it can optimise the viewing experience for their customers.

It does add that Spark customers are likely to be offered some special deals and experiences.

As well as online, Spark’s agreement with TVNZ will see the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018, the World Rugby Under 20 Championship 2018 and selected matches from the Rugby World Cup 2019 screen free-to-air on TVNZ.

TVNZ’s Rugby World Cup coverage will see the same number of games offered free-to-air than during the 2015 World Cup, including the tournament’s opening match and final. There will also be delayed coverage of matches, the number yet to be confirmed, and ads won’t run in live game time.

Free-to-air coverage of the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 will be confirmed closer to the tournament date.

Spark managing director Simon Moutter says it wants to help shape the future of sports watching by New Zealanders, so it’s immensely proud to be bringing these tournaments via modern streaming capabilities that offer a richer, more engaging viewing experience.

“We intend to use the power of technology to give Kiwis more control and better choices about what they watch, when they watch and how they watch.”

Moutter adds rather than the “all or nothing” bundle that has been the approach for previous Rugby World Cups, Spark intends to offer pricing options to suit people’s differing preferences and budgets. 

“While we won’t be releasing pricing details until next year, I can say there will be a menu of well-priced options, ranging from individual match passes through to a full tournament package.  We believe this makes Rugby World Cup viewing more accessible to many more New Zealanders than has been the case for recent tournaments.”

And with New Zealand well-known for its passionate love for rugby, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper says it’s fitting for such a ground-breaking new approach to delivering some of rugby’s premier tournaments to begin here.

“We believe that this deal will give fans in New Zealand access to an exceptional viewer experience that will deliver even more action, analysis and coverage to more people than ever before.”

About its agreement with Spark to make the games available free-to-air, TVNZ chif executive Kevin Kenrick says it will broaden the availability of New Zealand’s biggest sport and give viewers even more choice.

“Big sporting events have a huge following and in New Zealand it doesn’t get much bigger than the Rugby World Cup. It’s must-watch moments like this that drive TV viewing. TVNZ’s excited to be the free-to-air TV home for the next Rugby World Cup. The tournament is a major addition to our sport event line up, and builds on our recent Commonwealth Games coverage.”

And for Spark, Moutter says the win also builds on its operation of Lightbox and partnership with Netflix.

“We have demonstrated our commitment to be a key player in a rapidly evolving media environment when it comes to New Zealanders watching their favourite TV shows and movies online. Given how passionate New Zealanders are when it comes to watching their favourite sports, we have an ongoing interest in playing our part as sports viewing moves online as well.

“At the same time, we’re disciplined when it comes to investments of this nature. Although sport is a powerful content genre, it is typically very expensive – something we’re mindful of.  For this reason, we’re focused on making sure the business case for securing rights of this nature can stand on its own two feet – and these tournaments certainly do that.”

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