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Rural communities worried about missing out on RWC

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 16/04/2018

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If you want to watch most of the Rugby World Cup next year, you'll need around $100 and a decent internet connection.

Spark and TVNZ have secured the rights to broadcast the championship being held in Japan, and say only seven of the forty matches will be on free-to-air TV.

The other games will be streamed online, for a fee, with rural communities who are still on aging internet infrastructure worried they'll miss out.

Rugby has been described as the national religion and the Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of that obsession.

But there are no guarantees all the All Blacks' matches will be aired on TV.

The President of the Otautau Rugby Club in a remote part of Southland, Graeme Carran, is gutted.

"We've just won the last world cup and we're going in there as one of the favourites..the Rugby Unions of New Zealand are trying to get the grass-roots rugby up and going and keeping it going - and if we don't get to see the big guys play, then what are we going to watch, and how are we going to inspire our children," Mr Carran said.

Federated Farmers' national vice-president Andrew Hoggard said the internet isn't good enough for day-to-day errands, let alone streaming videos online.

"Really rural areas need that broadband for just doing business.

"We're where a lot of the productivity of the country comes from and yet for a number of farmers, simple things like internet banking, cloud accounting - there's all these programmes we use now to run our farms and they all rely on good internet connectivity," Mr Hoggard said.

Spark's General Manager of Corporate Relations Andrew Pirie said they're aware there are people in rural communities whose current internet connection is not fast enough to stream the games.

They'll be doing all they can to ensure all rugby fans can be part of the action next year, he said.

"There's programs underway already which will mean that there's a lot of customers in rural parts of New Zealand who will have much better broadband by the time the world cup comes around in late 2019, than they have today.

"So those programmes will be underway, so a lot of people will be getting better broadband on the way already," Mr Pirie said.

They're looking into other back-up options for remote areas - like streaming the games at local rugby clubs, Mr Pirie said.

Being able to watch the games in remote parts of the country isn't the only thing rugby fans are worried about.

Sky Sport costs people about $80 per month for a full subscription...while Spark said it will charge about $100 for the Rugby World Cup.

RNZ spoke to people down Lambton Quay in Central Wellington, who weren't sold.

"I would not pay $100, that is a waste of money, that is ridiculous - that is so much money," one said.

"It's a positive step, but I think it should be free for everyone but that's a start," another said.

"It would be quite expensive and like some people are on a limited budget...I think it should all be for free, I guess," another said.

Spark said people will be given the option to pay per game, which would be cheaper.

Sports commentator Keith Quinn said paying to watch the games is nothing new.

As long as people can watch the games, they'll be happy, he said.

"It's almost like it's a right that New Zealanders have to see the All Blacks at least play, and in the world cup to see what their opponents are like.

"So I hope that the systems can be put in place so that everybody can see the significant games of the Rugby World Cup because it is very important to New Zealand," Mr Quinn said.

The New Zealand Rugby Union aren't too worried about the new arrangements, with the union's chief executive, Steve Tew, saying times are changing and online streaming should suit the vast majority of fans.

"Well it's the same issue with traditional television and satellite television - not all of New Zealand gets everything.

But as I said before, everyone's desire here is to get the game infront of as many people as possible and the world's changing," Mr Tew said.

The Spark/TVNZ deal also includes broadcasts of the Rugby Sevens, Under 20 championships, and the Women's Rugby World Cup.

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