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UK broadcast rights for cross-hemisphere tests remain an important part of Sanzaar’s overall revenue pie.
Sanzaar chief executive Brendan Morris is confident of agreeing a broadcast deal in the UK and Ireland markets for the All Blacks series against in July and the Rugby Championship that follows, despite having to pull Super Rugby Pacific out of its bundled offering to pay-TV operators .
Super Rugby Pacific will now be shown on a new platform, sanzaarrugby.tv, in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Europe (excluding France), the Middle East, China and India/Sri Lanka, with the Sky-owned RugbyPass platform no longer an option after “challenges” in the past 12 months, Morris said.
The absence of a pay-TV deal for Super Rugby reflects the tougher broadcast market in the UK, where Sanzaar famously struck gold in the previous broadcast cycle, raking in £20 million ($40 million) a year for Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship between 2016-2020.
However, Morris said the July test window and the Rugby Championship still held appeal to the likes of long-term partner Sky UK. “We’re negotiating with a number of traditional broadcasters in the UK and those negotiations are ongoing,” Morris told stuff.
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“We would have liked to have been in a position to confirm someone by the start of Super Rugby, but the reality is that we start on Friday, and we had to make a conscious decision to withdraw it [Super Rugby Pacific] from the bundle.
”…but you only have to look at what July is bringing…you’ve got a three-test series with England here [Australia]Ireland in New Zealand, Wales going to South Africa and Scotland going to Argetina.
“It’s going to be a huge attraction for the UK. We’re in no doubt that there will be a UK broadcast deal done very soon, it’s just a matter of how, who with, and how quickly we can get it done.”
Sky UK, the long-term broadcaster of southern hemisphere rugby in the UK, remains the frontrunner to secure the July tests and Rugby Championship.
“We’ve got great partnerships and people who’ve invested in the game for a long time,” Morris said. “They’ve done an excellent job.
“The product is good but it’s only as strong as the internet [for streaming]† You might look at hybrid deals where terrrestial remains a strong presence in a number key markets and digital is looked at in a different way.
“It’s a capability to do it yourself versus long-term partnerships that have served both parties very well. I’d like to thinki that all our broadcast deals have been a mutually beneficial arrangement for many years.”
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Industry insiders have told stuff that Super Rugby sits firmly in the ‘nice to have’ rather than ‘must have’ category in the UK broadcast market, where test matches are the priority.
It is not the first time that the competition has been streamed overseas. Last year, RugbyPass streamed Super Rugby Aotearoa into the UK, while Super Rugby AU was shown on World Rugby’s website.
This year, viewers overseas can buy the 91 games of Super Rugby Pacific for £49.99 ($100) in the UK.
“We’ve been talking about a direct-to-consumer product as long as I’ve been at Sanzaar,” Morris said.
“This new product was mainly set up to target markets where we don’t have a broadcast deal.
“The fact that we can drop Super Rugby Pacific into it is a huge bonus.
“There have been some challeneges with RugbyPass over the past 12 months, so that opportunity is probably gone.
“We just put our foot on the pedal and said, ‘We need to be here for the best opportunity to get a direct-to-consumer product, and test the market’.”
Morris was also realistic about the money-making potential of sanzaarrugby.tv, noting it wouldn’t bring in “enough to retire on” in the next 12 months.