A changing of the guard? Sky loses RWC rights...


In what could become a landmark moment for sports broadcasting in NZ, Spark and TVNZ announced that they have secured the rights to the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Alex Lawson, General Manager of Carat takes a look at what this may mean for marketers and media buyers.


Watershed moment or flash in the pan? That's the question that many are asking about the recent RWC broadcast coverage win by Spark and TVNZ from the usual incumbent of all things sport, Sky. Many are gleefully predicting this to be the final nail in the coffin of Sky and the dawn of a new age of online broadcast live sports, or a return to free to air broadcasting of our favourite teams - but is this really the case?

The first thing to note is that this is a one off tournament taking place offshore. That's important as the biggest cost to broadcasting these events isn't the rights costs but the production of getting them from field to screen. In NZ only one company, OSB (Outside Broadcasting Services) has the capability of filming an event of this size for broadcast. Who owns OSB? Yep, Sky. The deal for TVNZ / Spark skips all of that cost (delivered by an overseas host broadcaster) and enables them to bring it to kiwi screens. For Super Rugby, NRL, Netball, Cricket etc that is played on Kiwi shores, the only company with the capability at this stage to film and broadcast the games is Sky. So, they're not going anywhere for a while.

What is interesting to consider however, is how much erosion from their stable of sports could be signalled by this. What other sports currently making up the Sports package that are straight broadcast deals with no production required may also now be vulnerable? Something to watch.

Now, onto the RWC specifics.

From a consumer point of view I view this deal positively. There will be 7 live, FTA games (we would assume that this is the AB's route to the final) on TVNZ, free for all to view live. So, definitely a step up from the delayed Prime coverage. TVNZ have also confirmed (unlike Prime) that no mid game ad breaks will play. The rest of the tournament will be available live via an online app for a range of price points, with the full tournament being available for around $100. Seems good value when you put it up against a month's Fanpass for the same price. There have been rumblings about NZ broadband speeds not being up to par, but in most places I think that this will not be an issue. 

But what about advertisers? What does this mean for them?

For the 7 FTA games, we see this as a good opportunity. There will be RWC packs out there for the spots and these will sell out (talk to us early rather than late!). I expect all these games to attract good audiences, outgaining the Sky equivalent versions from tournaments past due to the extra accessibility.

For the online games? This is where we start to go into the land of the unknown. Metrics on live online sports viewing have been, to this point, patchy at best. Yes, we can very accurately track people clicking into the coverage, but the time spent and view through rates is where broadcasters have been known to start pumping up the numbers to massive, and not particularly helpful, numbers. However, to an extent, this becomes a non issue if you are able to buy pre-roll or specific break spots in the online world. Then it will only matter if someone watched our ad spot, not if they hung around to watch Georgia vs Scotland or something like that. The opportunity goes back to the Spark platform generating enough impressions to fill demand, not ratings of games.  

Currently we have no visibility from Spark as to what the ad package structure may be. Will it be accessible by programmatic platforms? Will they sell by game, by break, or by audience? This will be the key to the effectiveness of the event for advertisers, and for that, we will have to wit for now! 



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