Spark and TVNZ win rights to Rugby World Cup

Matches to be live-streamed via broadband and mobile connections

The coveted Rugby World Cup 2019 broadcasting rights have been awarded to telecommunications provider Spark, in partnership with TVNZ, it was announced today.

New Zealanders will be able to watch the matches via their broadband or mobile connection, using a wide range of devices, says Spark Managing Director Simon Moutter. As part of the deal, seven free-to-air games will be shown on TVNZ, including the first and final game, and these will be ad-free.

Moutter says the telco will offer a “menu of well-priced options, ranging from individual match passes through to a full tournament package.” He told RadioNZ this morning that a tournament pass is likely to cost around $100, but full pricing will be released next year.

  The tournament will be streamed via an app which won’t be restricted to Spark customers and “would be accessible via over five million mobile connections (3G/4G) and 1.5 million broadband subscribers,” Moutter says. Spark customers are however likely to receive special deals.

In what will be a real test of broadband capability and coverage, Spark is assuring those living in rural areas that they won’t miss out. “We are very mindful that in late 2019, some people may still not have adequate coverage to stream the matches at home. We want to do our best to give as many New Zealanders as possible [the ability] to watch – so we are looking at a range of options.

In addition to the Rugby World Cup 2019, Spark/TVNZ have been awarded the rights to the Women’s Rugby World Cup, Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018, Men’s World Rugby U20 Championship 2018 and 2019.

Previously, SkyTV has had the broadcasting rights to these events. The company signalled to the NZX that it was not the preferred bidder for the Rugby World Cup 2019 rights last month. The Rugby World Cup rights are sold by IMG Media and are unrelated to SANZAAR rights which consist of All Blacks tests, Super Rugby and Mitre 10 Cup, which SkyTV has the rights to through to 2020.

The move towards offering premier sporting events via broadband and mobile connections is enabled by the roll out of the Ultra Fast Broadband network, alongside the Rural Broadband Initiative. SkyTV previously sought to merge with Vodafone NZ, but the move was denied by Commerce Commission in February 2017. In its statement declining the merger, the Commission cited the roll out fibre broadband.

“This is also against a backdrop of fibre being rolled out, making it an opportune time for the merged entity to entice consumers to a new offer. If significant switching occurred, the merged entity could, in time, have the ability to price less advantageously than without the merger or to reduce the quality of its service. Given we are not satisfied that we can say that competition is unlikely to be substantially lessened by the proposed merger, we must decline clearance,” the Commission wrote.

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