2019 RWC could change way people view sport: Timms

Rugby World Cup 2019 could change the way people think about viewing sports events in which they were interested, Craigs Investment Partners broker Chris Timms said yesterday.

After a week or more of speculation, TVNZ and Spark confirmed yesterday they had the rights to broadcast next year's RWC. Sky Network Television had earlier confirmed it was not the preferred bidder.

Mr Timms said it was unclear how TVNZ would broadcast the games, after it was criticised for the way it covered the Commonwealth Games.

``Viewers will want to see how this pans out before making a judgement.''

Rugby fans could have access to all World Cup games for about $100, Spark chief executive Simon Moutter said.

Spark also confirmed in a statement it had broadcast rights for the Women's Rugby World Cup in 2021, this year's Rugby World Cup Sevens and the 2018 under-20 world championship.

No price was disclosed, although Mr Moutter said the business case for acquiring the tournaments' rights stacked up.

Mr Timms said shareholders would have to wait until Spark's financial results were released next year to find the cost to the company.

Mr Moutter said work would now begin on pricing packages and deciding which content would be paid and what would be free-to-air.

This would be announced closer to the event. It is understood TVNZ will screen seven matches free-to-air, including the opening game and the final - the same number offered free-to-air in 2015.

``Typically in a big sports event like this you would have a tournament pass where you have all the content for a one-off fixed price.

``Ballpark for the tournament, we're thinking about $100, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less.

``If you compare that one ticket to an All Blacks game last year in the Lions tour was $149 for the lowest price ticket, so to watch 48 games, $100 is pretty good,'' Mr Moutter said.

Customers would also have the option to buy individual games or, for example, only All Blacks games for a set price.

All of the content would be available across any device, with all games in a catalogue on a screening app meaning customers wouldn't need to record matches, but could pick and choose when they wanted to view.

``True TV on demand,'' Mr Moutter said.

Mr Timms said getting New Zealanders to watch the content online could pose a challenge to Spark and TVNZ but it would force people to make a decision, and Sky could be the loser.

Spark had already announced new packages and incentives for existing and new customers.

One option, as Sky still had the broadcast rights for Super rugby and domestic New Zealand rugby, was buying a Fan Pass from Sky instead of taking the full sports package, he said.

Customers could then watch the events they wanted without having to pay a large amount of money to take a full annual subscription.

``The RWC is a significant event for many New Zealanders and they will want to see the matches.''

There was no loyalty to one particular product any more, as demonstrated by the rise of Netflix, Neon and Lightbox.

People without suitable broadband, or those not familiar with live streaming, might also struggle to watch the games, Mr Timms said.

Earlier this year, when asked for his views on the digital paywall, Sky TV chief executive John Fellet referred to the recent example of the Joseph Parker fight.

He said only 10% of people who paid for the fight watched the content online, and the rest still relied on the traditional broadcast option.

The high levels of streaming during the Commonwealth Games suggested New Zealanders are becoming increasingly comfortable with online viewing, but Spark still has a big job convincing sceptical Kiwis that online platforms can deliver a viewing experience comparable to a traditional broadcast.

Asked about the network's capability to handle the demand, Mr Moutter said: ``we wouldn't have made a bid if we weren't sure we could deliver''.

A yet-to-be-confirmed number of delayed matches will also screen. There will be no advertisements during live game time, TVNZ said. However, there would be ads at halftime and before and after games.

- Additional reporting NZME



Of course forcing people to pay $100 to watch rugby will have an impact on how people will watch sport. Very many cannot afford $100, so they will watch other sport, whatever is being offered on free to air TV.
Short term these money grabs by sports associations don't have a huge impact, but over time more and more fans will switch to other sports. And the long term loser will be Rugby.

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