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Spark buys Rugby World Cup broadcast rights

Spark buys Rugby World Cup broadcast rights, taps TVNZ for free-to-air, production

By Paul McBeth

April 16 (BusinessDesk) - Spark New Zealand has bought broadcasting rights to the 2019 Rugby World Cup and several other competitions for an undisclosed sum and has tapped Television New Zealand to provide free-to-air coverage and bolster production capability.

The Auckland-based company secured the rights to next year's Rugby World Cup, the Women's Rugby World Cup in 2021, this year's Rugby World Cup Sevens and the 2018 and 2019 under-20 world champs, it said in a statement. No price was disclosed, although managing director Simon Moutter said the business case for acquiring the tournaments' rights stacked up.

Spark also signed a free-to-air rights deal with state-owned TVNZ covering the sevens and under-20s tournaments and selected matches from next year's world cup. Free-to-air coverage for the women's event will be announced closer to the date.

"Given how passionate New Zealanders are when it comes to watching their favourite sports, we have an ongoing interest in playing our part as sports viewing moves online as well," Moutter said in a statement. "Although sport is a powerful content genre, it is typically very expensive – something we’re mindful of."

Spark and TVNZ were rumoured to be in the box seat for winning the tournament rights when existing holder Sky Network Television last month said it might miss out on the event.

The telecommunications company has already ventured into content with its Lightbox on-demand offering, and in the 2017 June year built up a content inventory worth $26 million.

Spark will offer the tournament live or on-demand via an app, which won't be limited to its own customers. The company will offer a range of packages, but won't announce pricing details until next year, although Moutter told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme a tournament pass might cost about $100.

TVNZ will screen seven games live free-to-air and without ads, including the opening match and final, but the other five are up in the air. The companies haven't finalised details on delayed coverage.

Moutter told RNZ its TV partner provides production, talent and an understanding of broadcast audiences, which aligned with Spark's streaming capabilities.

Spark shares closed at $3.41 on Friday, having dropped 5.7 percent so far this year. Sky TV last traded at $2.34 and has slumped 17 percent this year.

(BusinessDesk)


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