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Rugby Fans the Losers on the Day

Media Release

For immediate release
Friday, 2 December 2005

Rugby Fans the Losers on the Day

TV3 confirms that as of today it has not been able to reach a satisfactory agreement with Sky for delayed free-to-air rugby in 2006. TV3 has declined the opportunity to match a commercially unrealistic, non-viable offer Sky has received for the rights from Prime Television which it is in the process of acquiring.

“The option put forward to us was commercially untenable to any arm’s length commercial broadcaster, and we believe that Prime’s offer to Sky in terms of conditions and timing is inextricably linked to the proposed acquisition,” said CanWest MediaWorks CEO, Brent Impey.

“We are still trying to find a satisfactory resolution with Sky on a commercially viable basis which will allow all New Zealanders to watch our national game free-to-air,” he said.

We had clearly indicated that Super 12 and NPC rugby was not drawing a big enough free-to-air audience to justify delayed coverage in prime-time on TV3.

However, we still felt All Black rugby had a demand for delayed games in prime time.

“What I find sad about this, is the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who may no longer be able to access free-to-air rugby because they live in a part of New Zealand which has either poor, or no Prime signal,” he said.

“We are concerned that up to 30% of New Zealanders would lose the ability to view free-to-air rugby.

“So, if you happen to live in rugby heartland New Zealand in places such as Greymouth, Westport – in fact anywhere on the West Coast of the South Island, Wanaka, Oamaru, Kaikoura, Picton, Hanmer Springs, Kaitaia, KeriKeri, Paihia, Kaikohe, Pauanui, Whitianga, Tairua, TeKuiti, Waiouru, Taihape, East Cape, Ruatoria or Wairoa then watching free-to-air rugby is at risk,” he said.

“On top of that is the tens of thousands of homes within coverage areas who do not have UHF aerials installed, and would have to incur aerial installation costs in order to keep watching free-to-air rugby.

“But probably the biggest impact on the rugby audience is for those who live in the rural areas or parts of the major centres, including Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch where Prime’s signal is, at best, marginal.

“The UHF signal Prime broadcasts on has somewhat different characteristics to the VHF signal other free-to-air broadcasters use. The penetration of the UHF signal is hampered by areas shaded by buildings or terrain."

“To put the coverage power into perspective, Prime has around 30 transmission sites in New Zealand, TV3 has six times that with around 180,” Mr Impey said.

“While we have had to make a clear business decision, as a passionate rugby fan and a broadcaster, I do find it disappointing that for many fellow New Zealanders watching our national game may now become restricted to those who can afford it, or those who live in the right part of the country,” he said.

“So, the result will be to force up to 30% of viewers who want to watch rugby to pay for the privilege by having to subscribe to Sky,” Mr Impey said.


ENDS

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