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The free-to-air broadcasting deal announced today makes it unlikely that any New Zealander will miss out on seeing rugby World Cup matches in 2011, tournament chief executive Martin Snedden says.
The New Zealand free-to-air rights have been awarded to a consortium formed between Maori TV, TVNZ and Mediaworks, the owner of TV3.
Under the agreement, local viewers will be able to watch live free-to-air coverage of 16 matches.
They include the final, the third/fourth playoff, both semifinals, the two quarterfinals featuring qualifiers from the All Blacks' pool, the All Blacks' pool matches.
Maori TV will cover all 16 designated games on both its English and Te Reo channels, with up to 10 percent of the commentary on the latter being in the Maori language.
The network will also have delayed coverage of the 32 other fixtures.
TV One and TV3 will each show seven live games, including the tournament's last four.
The free-to-air coverage is in addition to host broadcaster Sky TV's live screening of all 48 matches via satellite.
Snedden, who heads Rugby New Zealand 2011, said the deal reached between Rugby World Cup Ltd (RWCL) and the consortium marked another step forward in tournament organisers' goal of creating a "stadium of four million".
He said one of the concerns at the start of planning for the event was whether the whole of the New Zealand would have access to the tournament.
It was a consideration when deciding issues like match scheduling, teams bases and ticket pricing.
"Even with that, we knew there would be people who didn't get access to the rugby World Cup," Snedden said.
"The end result of today is that I don't think there is any possibility of anyone in New Zealand not being able to see rugby World Cup matches and particularly the major matches as we get to the crunch point of the tournament." Maori TV initially sought the free-to-air rights on its own last September.
The Government stepped in and brokered a joint bid which also included TVNZ and TV3, but with Maori TV as lead broadcaster.
Acting Rugby World Cup Minister Gerry Brownlee said today that the Government was committing $3.2 million to the free-to-air deal to ensure all New Zealanders could enjoy what would be the biggest sporting event held in the country.
RWCL managing director Mike Miller said the solution reached was good for the tournament, for rugby and for New Zealanders.
Asked about the Government's involvement after reports that the International Rugby Board was upset at what was seen as interference in a commercial process, Miller said it had been a positive.
"The Government is a very strong partner of ours," he said.
"A tournament of this size, complexity and scope really can't work without a strong partnership with Government and we are very happy with the relationship we have."
Maori TV chief executive Jim Mather said confirmation that the network would be lead broadcaster was a significant achievement for an organisation that will mark its sixth year on air this month.
"This is a very exciting result for Maori TV," he said.
"We acknowledge that our role as lead broadcaster is a major achievement, especially for a young indigenous broadcaster, and we are celebrating this success."
Matches from the 2011 rugby World Cup to be shown live free-to-air in New Zealand, and who will be screening them:
* New Zealand v Tonga (Pool A; tournament opener) - Maori TV, Te Reo, TV One;
* Argentina v England - Maori TV, Te Reo; South Africa V Wales - Maori TV, Te Reo;
* New Zealand v Asia 1 - Maori TV, Te Reo;
* Australia v Ireland - Maori TV, Te Reo;
* New Zealand v France - Maori TV, Te Reo, TV3;
* South Africa v Samoa - Maori TV, Te Reo;
* New Zealand v Canada - Maori TV, Te Reo;
* Quarterfinal 1 (winners pool C v runners-up pool D) - Maori TV, Te Reo;
* Quarterfinal 2 (winners pool B v runners-up pool A) - Maori TV, Te Reo, TV One, TV3;
* Quarterfinal 3 (winners pool D v runners-up pool C) - Maori TV, Te Reo;
* Quarterfinal 4 (winners pool A v runners-up pool B) - Maori TV, Te Reo, TV One, TV3;
* Semifinal 1 - Maori TV, Te Reo, TV One, TV3;
* Semifinal 2 - Maori TV, Te Reo, TV One, TV3;
* Bronze medal match - Maori TV, Te Reo, TV One, TV3;
* Final - Maori TV, Te Reo, TV One, TV3.
Maori TV will also air delayed free-to-air coverage of the 32 other matches in the tournament. Host broadcaster Sky TV will screen all 48 matches live on its pay satellite services.
Maori TV will also air delayed coverage of the 32 other matches on free-to-air.