TVNZ and Spark New Zealand have secured the rights to screen free-to-air live coverage of Rugby World Cup 2019.

Lower Hutt resident and keen rugby fan Daniel Bates feels pretty ripped off about the 2019 Rugby World Cup airing through Spark and TVNZ.

Bates is a Sky customer and will now fork out extra on top of his monthly subscription if he wants to watch all of the games through TVNZ and Spark’s new venture.

“I still don’t understand the full picture,” he said.

Sky TV was not the preferred bidder for Rugby World Cup broadcasts.


Sky TV was not the preferred bidder for Rugby World Cup broadcasts.

“Because I pay for Sky so it’s kind of a pain in the a… for me.” 

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TVNZ and Spark announced on Wednesday that they won the rights to broadcast the 2019 Rugby World Cup.


TVNZ CEO Kevin Kendrick and Spark managing director Simon Moutter speak to TVNZ1’s Breakfast about broadcasting the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Some games would be broadcast for free, but Kiwi rugby fans would have to have to dig into their pockets to watch every match. It is understood that Kiwis could pay around $100 to watch all of the games.

Bates expected some sort of app would be available that was made similar to the TVNZ Ondemand. 

Despite forking out $750 to watch the All Blacks play France during the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, Bates couldn’t justify paying $100 to watch all of them.

“I’m not going to pay $100 to watch six weeks of rugby – that’s absurd,” he said.

“If I had to pay per games I’d probably only watch the All Blacks which is a shame, plus the World Cup is in Japan and it’s only four hours behind.”

Victoria University media studies senior lecturer Michael Daubes, who comes from Canada, pays an annual fee of NZ$150 to watch every game of ice hockey via the NHL TV streaming app.


Sky TV has indicated Spark “paid a lot of money” to secure the rights to broadcast the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The ice hockey runs for seven and a half months.

“Already people are saying it’s going to be way more expensive to pay for the Spark package than it would to get Sky TV for a little bit of time to watch all of the Rugby World Cup games,” Daubes said.

“When people are complaining about the cost of this Rugby World Cup package, it kind of makes sense.”

More and more Kiwis were streaming, but Daubes noted not all Kiwis would be able to watch the rugby via their internet device. Age and regional difference made that impact.

“The younger someone is the more likely they are to be willing to stream television and, in fact, most people under the age of 25 watch a vast majority of their television through streaming services rather than over the air or through cable or satellite systems. So it’s fairly natural to download an app to watch the Rugby World Cup,” Daubes said.

“For older people you’ll see a mix and it’s hard to get specific numbers and about 40 per cent of  people above the age of 40 and maybe even a higher percentage are already watching at least some of their television through streaming services as well. The idea of watching entertainment through streaming services is fairly common in New Zealand, especially since the introduction of unlimited broadband and plans for homes which New Zealanders are taking full advantage of.

“Rural areas in New Zealand would be left out of streaming content if high speed broadband wasn’t available.”

He said Kiwis were “device promiscuous” when it comes to their chosen form of streaming. 

“Meaning whatever they have access to is what they’re going to watch things on,” he said.

“Mobile phones are great for that because we have them with us constantly for people who want to see detail, watching on a tablet or even a lap top or smart TV – that’s going to be the way they go.”

Bates, a 33-year-old married millennial with a nine month old baby, preferred to stream the World Cup from his mobile device onto his television.

“We’re a big streaming family,” he said.

“We mostly stream everything outside the news, I watch highlights on my phone. I don’t really watch full games on my phone.”

In 2015 the Rugby World Cup final was the second most watched television programme in 2015 (after One News) with an average audience of 673,000, according to Neilsen research.

Unsurprisingly, rugby broadcast coverage is the most popular in NZ, and almost three quarters (72 per cent) of Kiwis have watched a live rugby game on TV in the past 12 months.

Despite the growth in popularity of other devices and screens – Kiwis preferred to watch traditional TV.

Two in five Kiwis kept up-to-date with sports via the television, but seven out of ten sports fans used a smartphone and one-in-three owned a tablet.  

“Options to ‘watch the game’ have never been greater and sports fans have higher incidence of usage and ownership of devices of the general population,” the Neilsen report read.

“As the creation and distribution of mobile-first sport video content grows, publishers are developing more convenient and streamlined options for mobile sport video viewing. Live streaming and short-form content designed for mobile consumption are all trends that are gaining momentum in the US and are poised to emerge locally.”

Despite the numbers, the traditional television wasn’t disappearing just yet. 

On average, 77 per cent or 3.1 million Kiwis (aged 10+) watch broadcast TV each week and live viewing was the dominant viewing behaviour across all age groups, Neilsen data revealed.

 – Stuff

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