NZ Rugby flexes its muscles with AllBlacksTV.com

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There are a couple of different ways to interpret NZ Rugby's move to setup its own site, AllBlacksTV.com, for streaming All Blacks games on a pay-per-view basis (see end of story for a list of the end-of-season, second-tier games it will stream, via desktop, mobile or, via wifi, your TV. All options will be HD. Maori All Blacks games will cost $15 a pop, All Blacks matches $25):

One, like various sports bodies overseas, NZ Rugby is flexing its muscles. These games could have been offered through Sky TV's Fanpass service. Instead, NZ Ruby is taking more control of its content — giving itself access to an international audience as well as a domestic one (there will be no geo-blocks on the new site) and putting itself in the driving seat for negotiations for broadcast and streaming rights post-2020, when its current five-year deal with Sky expires.

Two, it's a smart way for Sky TV to keep itself in the mix as new media competitors sniff around for rights. Sky TV might have said: we'll keep filming all the games and broadcasting them in New Zealand, but we'll help you with this new venture for reaching fans in the rest of the world on a pay-per-view basis, no Amazon Prime required. However, if AllBlacksTV.com eventually extends from second-tier games to offering matches against top-flight competition on a pay-per-view, no-contract-required basis, it will obviously be a challenge to Sky's core satellite business (Sky recently stunted its own no-contract service, Fanpass, by eliminating its day and week pass options, and hiking the price of a one-month pass).

Reaching a worldwide fan base of millions
In a statement (the first half of which could have been drafted by Sky's PR team, the second by his own) NZ Ruby chief executive Steve Tew says:

"Sky remains the home of live rugby in New Zealand, and the only place you can watch every All Blacks match live across the season. This includes the three All Blacks Tests coming up on the Vista 2017 All Blacks Northern Tour in November against France, Scotland and Wales.

“The livestream is a significant opportunity for us to use the latest streaming technology to grow the All Blacks global fanbase. There are over seven million allblacks.com and social media followers that live outside New Zealand so there is a real opening to engage these fans and grow our brand and following internationally by extending our broadcast options."

In a research note mulling a possible Amazon move into New Zealand, Forsyth Barr noted 120 million watched the All Blacks in the last Rugby World Cup final, indicating the upper-end of the potential audience if Amazon made a bid for NZ, regional or global rights to All Blacks games.

There are a number of questions.

What technology is being used for AllBlacksTV.com. Is it NeuLion, the US outfit that manage Sky's pretty-reliable Fanpass, or will it be based on Sky's inhouse-developed, ropey Go? (NBR will endeavour to find out, though answers may not be forthcoming until after the holiday weekend).

Would NZ Rugby trample on other unions' territorial broadcast rights if it tried to stream games against the likes of England, Australia and South Africa via AllBlacksTV.com?

Is this a brave new dawn in NZ Rugby thinking, or will it peter out like the YouTube HD live streaming experiment before it (for an All Black-Wallabies game way back in 2013; these days it could be pay-per-view via Google Play or YouTube Red)?

And is Mr Tew weighing the benefits of sticking with Sky vs partnering with TVNZ or MediaWorks for broadcast rights, and maybe going broader with an NZ Rugby app and streaming service that, say, charges $5 a game that will help generate larger audiences for sponsors?

Deep pockets, but how much do they want to spend it on sport?
Amazon and other new media players have deep enough pockets, but as Sky boss John Fellet points out, the rights they have bought so far are either non-exclusive or for games around the fringes. And while Facebook was willing to bit a stonking $840 million for streaming rights to Indian Premier League games, that still wasn't enough

But will putative interest from Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter in buying sports rights build from their current warm-up phase, or will it fizzle out as the years go by?

Either way, in the near-term NZ Rugby has a golden opportunity to expand the reach of the All Blacks brand.

Amazon is said to be pushing for talks over post-2019 rugby rights to begin as soon as April next year. The advent of AllBlacksTVcom indicates NZ Rugby and Sky TV won't be sitting on their hands until then.


AllBlacksTV.com games coming soon

  • Maori All Blacks v Canada
    Friday 3 November at BC Place Stadium, Vancouver, Canada, Kick off 7pm PDT
    Your time: Saturday 4 November, Kick off 3:00PM
  • All Blacks v Barbarians
    Saturday 4 November at Twickenham, London, Kick off 3pm GMT
    Your time: Sunday 5 November, Kick off 4:00AM
  • Maori All Blacks v French Barbarians
    Friday 10 November 2017 in Bordeaux, France Kick off 9pm CET
    Your time: Saturday 11 November, Kick off 9:00AM
  • All Blacks v French XV
    Tuesday 14 November at Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon, France, Kick off 6.55pm CET
    Your time: Wednesday 15 November, Kick off 6:55AM

 


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20 Comments & Questions

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$15 or $25 for reserve AB's players to play teams thrown together for the first time, or in the Maori case, a 3rd and 4th tier race based team? No thanks.

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From the viewpoint of NZ Rugby it's better to ramp this up slowly - iron the bugs out and test scaleabilty and demand.

For Sky it's just one more nail despite the best efforts of their PR department. Any wonder they were one of the worst performers yesterday? And potentially there are more nails to come with the possible policies of our Government elect.

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Best-case scenario (for rugby fans who don't want to have to get Sky TV) is that it's a proof-of-concept. If AllBlacksTV.com works well for these second-tier games, NZ Rugby might want to ramp it up. 

Worst case scenario is that Sky has goaded them into unattractive pricing (and $15 to $25 is pretty steep given the nature of the opposition of on the end-of-year tour). Few people use it to watch the Northern Tour so NZ Rugby loses interest.

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And the more technologically savvy can find these games live streamed on offshore betting sites for zero dollars if you create an account.....

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Sky is pushing multi-million damages cases against two local sellers of set-top boxes that it says facilitate piracy.

But part of keeping on top of piracy, or virtual parallel importing, is to offer street-legal and attractively priced alternatives for those who love a particular sport, but don't want to take a full-blooded Sky TV contract. AllBlacksTV.com fills that gap (or would with A-list games, and priced lower).

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Huge call to say Maori All Blacks are third or fourth tier

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$15 for a single Maori ABs game? That's a whole month of Netflix.

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We agree way too expensive. Who wants to fiddle around before a game paying to view.......it needs some refining!

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And where does Mr Peters' plan for free viewing of all test matches etc fit into this? Who pays?

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Advertisers.

While Sky have to run at a profit, the All Blacks is a national team and doesn't have to run at a profit; but rather break even.

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They should consider making all games steaming online free and leverage views against securing advertising revenue

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My son lives overseas and always struggles to get live coverage. Multiply him by a big number and you can see the potential

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Completely agree, aside illegal streaming it's impossible to get All Black games in New York
This venture has huge appeal

That said NBA league pass is ~$200 for the whole season and every game!!

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Only problem with this would be the different time zones, 6pm NZ Time is 1am in NY

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The Australian in mid-town is rammed for AFL at all hours...

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If he lives overseas there are cheaper online options.

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Viewing platforms aside, I reckon NZ rugby are muddling their message to their customer.

I've just seen a TV advert for Gatorade featuring a bunch of AllBlacks - with the punchline "nothing beats Gatorade".

I would so like a journalist to ask our boy's managers why Powerade, their longtime supporter, is "beaten by Gatorade", which it must be. If the answer is because the Gatorade people gave us more money, or the ownership of these brands meant we "had to change".. perhaps then the soul of NZ rugby could be exposed ?

The flaky-thin veneer of sponsorship needs a dose of 60-minutes.

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I'd be happy to pay $15 bucks to someone that could supply a service that could prevent me from having to be bombarded by every Rugby game and news about it. Please, no comments from people with obvious things to do to prevent it, because they don't work. There's no getting away from Rugby in this country.

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I think those prices have been thrown out there as they are "nice & round" - $15 or $25. I like the $12.99 price point per view.
Perhaps there needs to be a consideration for the total view - a pay-per-view strategy aimed at getting an audience for all of:
6 test matches in championship
3 in northern tour (excluding non-test matches of baa baas & french XV)
1 vs Samoa
3 lions tests
= 13 test matches this year in total - $325 to watch them.
vs 4 months of sky fanpass $396 which includes all other matches.
Looks like sky tv should look at the go-blocking terms of their contracts as there is potential here.
Maybe a dedicated rugby channel!! please would someone do a dedicated rugby channel!!

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