Spark digs deep for Cup, says Sky
Spark will have splashed out big time to secure the rights to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Sky Television says.
Sky spokeswoman Melodie Robinson said Sky offered to pay ‘‘significantly more’’ for the rights to the 2019 World Cup than it did when it won the rights to the cup in 2015. ‘‘Therefore Spark paid a lot of money,’’ she said.
Spark spokesman Andrew Pirie responded it was ‘‘very comfortable’’ with the price it paid and said it was not safe to assume RWC organiser World Rugby would necessary have plumped for the highest bid.
‘‘What we do know is that World Rugby have stated objectives about broadening the appeal of rugby beyond traditional rugby followers and our bid emphasises how our approach would give more New Zealanders more choice and opportunity,’’ Pirie said.
Sky investors had already written off the Rugby World Cup as lost when the pay-television giant announced last month that it was not the preferred bidder for the tournament in Japan.
That was confirmed on Monday when Spark announced it had secured the rights to the RWC, as well as the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021, this year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens and the World Rugby under-20 championships this year and next.
The contract for the cup was between the event organisers and Spark, with Television New Zealand playing a secondary role, Spark said.
Spark will stream the games online to paying customers, who need not be Spark broadband customers, with TVNZ providing the free-to-air component required by the tournament organisers.
Will more games be free-to-air?
It appears not. At the last World Cup, Sky screened seven games free-to-air on Prime. Spark has confirmed TVNZ will also air seven games free-to-air. It is understood this is an obligation under its contract with World Rugby. If the All Blacks qualified for finals matches that Spark chose to keep behind a paywall, there could be an uproar.
What will games cost online?
Full pricing won’t be revealed until next year, but Spark managing director Simon Moutter has indicated a stream- ing subscription to the whole RWC will cost about $100. Viewers will have the option of subscribing to watch all games online, or to pay for individual matches.
What if I lack good broadband?
Spark says it is looking at a range of options. These might include licences to let pubs and clubs show streamed coverage – similar to the service Sky provides today that lets them show Sky Sports.
Will Spark’s coverage be any good?
It will need to be to avoid a backlash. Depending on the timing of the 2019 under-20 championship, the RWC may be the first tournament it offers as a paid service online, so it may be jumping in at the deep end.
What will be the effect on Sky?
Sky investors appear to have already priced in the loss of the RWC. Chief executive John Fellet, who will quit within the year, has argued the premier rugby event isn’t a big drawcard for Sky Sports, given the biggest games need to be shown free-to-air anyway. First NZ Capital research head Arie Dekker has gone as far to say that he believes the loss is ‘‘largely irrelevant to Sky’’.
And on Spark?
It has not revealed how much it paid for the rugby rights, or how much it may be recouping from TVNZ through the freeto-air arrangements. But given Spark will have paid the bulk of the money for the rights to the 2019 RWC, expect analysts and investors to be probing for answers.
Spark is in the driving seat and TVNZ in the passenger seat for 2019’s Rugby World Cup.