Sky Television ‘Rip Off’ Costs New Zealanders Access To All Blacks

NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 21: Sky TV presenters Tamati Ellison, Christian Cullen and Jeff Wilson chat during the round nine Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Brumbies at McLean Park on April 21, 2017 in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

New Zealand Rugby and Sky Television are equally responsible for turning the game into a commercialised and corporate cash cow through unacceptably high prices for All Blacks coverage.

Sky is the king of rugby broadcasting in New Zealand – in fact it’s actually the one and only option for rugby fans in terms of television coverage.

Gone are the days where the triumph of the All Blacks could be viewed by everyone – no matter their pay scale. Since the late 90’s, Sky has increasingly had more and more dominance of the broadcasting rights, and by the mid 2000’s, free to air coverage was all but lost.

Now days, viewers on Prime Television (a channel owned and run by Sky) is the only example of free to air rugby coverage. Typically, All Black games are replayed an hour or two delayed – you’d never see it live. In fact, the last time that live coverage of All Black rugby was seen on the likes of TVNZ or TV3 (New Zealand’s two main free-to-air channels) was back during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Ok – granted that wasn’t too long ago – but hear me out here.

Currently, Sky’s sports package costs $29.90 for a month’s subscription – this is on top of the $50 basic service charged each month. To view sport in HD (high definition), that will cost you an extra $10 per month.

Now granted, the sports package does have some serious ‘bang for buck’ with four dedicated channels, a handful of pop ups, and two ESPN channels. An optional add on is the Rugby Channel – which by the way is the only place New Zealanders can access popular overseas competitions from English and French rugby.

For the increasing demand of online streaming – Sky offer viewers something called FanPass. The cost of that online only platform, with unreliable quality and constant dropping out issues, now goes for a whopping $100 per month. No joke.

In total – New Zealanders can expect to pay in excess of $1100 per year to watch live sport in their own home.

That brings us to the events at present – and it’s an absolute doozy.

Sky Television Rip Off Places Barriers To Fair Rugby Coverage

Reported yesterday, Sky Television has taken not one, but all four of New Zealand’s major media companies to court, arguing theft of video content. NZME, Fairfax Media, MediaWorks, and TVNZ have all been accused by Sky due to the use of video clips (which Sky claim of over 4000 are rugby related) in online news coverage.

Remembering that Sky hold all the rights to All Blacks, Super Rugby, Provincial Rugby, and even College Rugby – technically they are right. But whatever happened to freedom of the press? Sky would argue, rightly so, that media organisations would need to pay for the content.

The media have a responsibility to deliver the news in a variety of different ways. A headline, an image, and text is no longer enough nor is it acceptable.

With the advent of social media, coupled with a drive for instant updates on any device, media companies have had to incorporate the use of video to their stories as people no longer want to read a wall of text.

Effectively – the video clip in a rugby report needs to tell the consumer all they need to know – or all that the written story would tell you at the very least.

Sky claim a breach in copyright law by the four major media companies. While, technically, they are right, it signals a direct lack of compassion for the most important aspect, the consumer.

Maybe if Sky lowered their prices then you could feel a bit more empathy for this court case. Right now – it feels like nothing more than yet another attempt to control all the broadcast rights surrounding the great game of rugby in New Zealand.

New Zealand Rugby Post Record Investment In 2016

Getting onto the folks at New Zealand Rugby – its high time that they took a good hard look at themselves too. Do they acknowledge the fact that taxpayers already fund major sport in New Zealand through Government grants and local rates? Not many people may be aware of that.

Recently, a bill presented to Parliament had the potential to bring those free-to-air days back to modern households, but the bill didn’t pass Parliament. New Zealand Rugby had no comment on that, unsurprisingly. But yet – 84% of New Zealanders polled in favour of bringing back sport to free television.

The next broadcasting deal isn’t expected to be made until 2020, meaning it will remain the status quo for at least the next four years.

So, Where To From Here For The Average Fan?

The fans are so often forgotten about when commercial interests run a sport. It’s not like this is just an issue in New Zealand either – it’s global. From the NFL coverage in the United States which relies heavily on alcohol advertising, to the overriding influence that the BCCI has over the television coverage of cricket in India.

It is not a sole problem for New Zealand.

The moral issue remains though – should loyal fans be forced to pay such prices as charged per the agreement between Sky TV and New Zealand Rugby? Most people can’t afford Test match tickets either.

The financially elite will enjoy front row seats to the three All Blacks vs Lions Tests this June and July – and the household bill will rise for those who opt in to watch from home.

You could argue that there has never been a better time to tune into the radio at this point.

Michael Pulman is a rugby editor for LWOR and this is an opinion piece based in his thoughts. They don’t necessarily reflect the views of LWOR or Last Word On Sports. 

“Main photo credit”