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Comment: Are we entering the future of broadcast sport?

Newshub logoNewshub 16/04/2018 Adam Hollingworth

a man holding a football ball © Getty/file Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

A new deal struck ahead of the Rugby World Cup could change the way we watch television forever.

Spark has won the rights to show the 2019 Rugby World Cup, so for the first time, fans won't be able to watch all of the All Blacks games live on TV.

Instead, they'll be asked to fork out $100 for an app.

Spark's partner TVNZ will show just seven games from the tournament live, and Spark's CEO says the future of the set-top box is over.

Managing director Simon Moutter said: "We do not believe in satellites or set-top boxes - we believe that the world will consume video through apps via the internet across multiple devices, and most of the world agrees with us."

Spark executives say we'll willingly download a $100 app to watch all 48 games.

Aucklanders appear split between generations, giving mixed responses to the news.

Some people said it was expensive but justified by the tournament having a long duration, and one person compared it to using Netflix.

Not everyone was happy with the news, saying that they're already paying for Sky and were disappointed that they couldn't watch the games that way.

With TVNZ only screening seven matches free-to-air live, some All Blacks games will be shown later or even online only.

The audience for rugby on traditional TV is getting older and older. Insiders say nobody under 30 is really keen on buying a set-top box, but they will buy an app - and that's where Spark comes in.

Former New Zealand Rugby Commercial Manager and now MediaWorks executive Trevor McKewen says the move has been a long time coming.

"Overall, this is a very positive development for sports fans - it's just a matter of whether the older sports fans can get their head around the fact that they are going to engage with a streaming service to watch this entire World Cup."

Even though there are pockets of heartland New Zealand with poor broadband, Spark says its offering will still be an improvement on Sky.

"There is a lot more New Zealanders that have access to good broadband than actually have a Sky box, so we believe that this will be a more accessible tournament," Mr Moutter said.

NZ Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew says no delivery mechanism will be perfect.

"Not all of New Zealand gets everything... everyone's desire here is to get the game in front of many people as possible," he said.

Spark describes the World Cup deal as a foray - but if the technology succeeds, expect to see much more from them and soon.

Its pockets are deeper than Sky's, and in the cut-throat world of TV rights, that's what matters most.

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