New ‘Livestream’ Service Announced for All Blacks End of Year Tour

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Exeter Chiefs v Leicester Tigers - Aviva Premiership
An iPad is monitored by a member of Exeter Chiefs staff for possible head injuries during the Aviva Premiership match between Exeter Chiefs and Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park on December 24, 2016 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

With a new ‘Livestream Match’ service announced for the All Blacks end of year tour to the Northern hemisphere, is this a signal of the future of watching the New Zealand team play Test matches?

The matches scheduled to be livestreamed are non-Test matches but undoubtedly, the future of television and sports broadcasting is Digital. The ball is rolling towards that, with Satellite services overtaking traditional terrestrial viewing. Now, with the higher speeds of Internet, Broadband and cellular services, the digital wave is approaching fast.

Sports broadcasters across the world are adapting. From the USA to United Kingdom, stretching across the planet with online platforms so fans in Saudi Arabia or Peru can enjoy the same matches that were once the prize for any Pay TV operator. Twitter, YouTube and others are the platforms enjoying more utilization.

So, the All Blacks–being a premium sporting brand–are developing a partnership which will see four games livestreamed as pay-per-view events on AllBlacksTV.com. These will be available to both international and New Zealand-based fans (providing you have high-speed internet).

SKY and ‘Fan Pass’ subscribers will still be able to watch all these games, plus the Tests from the Vista 2017 All Blacks Northern Tour, through their normal subscription.

Tour Matches Livestreamed – but Not Test Matches

The impression is that fans can view the tour games [non Test matches] through this new service, but the Test matches will continue to be only available on a pay TV service. That must be the intention of the arrangement with Sky TV, to allow their resources to be utilized for AllBlacksTV.

For $24.99 per All Blacks matches against the UK Barbarians and a France XV, or $14.99 for Maori All Blacks matches against Canada and the French Barbarians.

It seems like a good concept–unsure of the price structure–but, is this only the beginning?

“We are excited to be working with SKY to provide international and New Zealand-based fans the opportunity to watch the All Blacks and Maori All Blacks across a range of platforms and viewing options, including AllBlacksTV video on demand,” said NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew.

On-demand is the catalyst for change here. With the ability to access a match ‘when it suits’. A key driver in the growth of online services, which differ from a traditional scheduled service like Sky.

The viewer today now determines the time and place to watch.

Anytime, Anywhere, Enjoy All Blacks TV From Your Device

As you maybe reading this article from your PC, laptop, tablet or mobile device, so is the trend in all programming. Where and when, is now the key. Netflix, TVNZ On Demand, all those platforms allow for options: Live TV or on demand. That enables flexibility; which you can have with a personal video recorder like MySky, but is ‘in your hands’.

The All Blacks want that, and they want it to be in their control. By Sky making certain matches available now, it can gauge the success. And in the short-term, the range of matches and services can be tailored to suit.

There is already an All Blacks app that allows the fan to access much more ‘info-tainment’ than a simple webpage. The app has all the same news stories and player biographies that the website does, but offers Team All Blacks members much more.

An example of anytime viewing maybe (in the future) that a fan can enjoy their dinner at 7:35pm – right on kick-off. Then return home and click-and-replay the game. Not have to wait for either a free-to-air replay, or the next scheduled showing on pay TV.

In the future, 21st century rugby viewing will be much more flexible. Fans in Africa or Asia can livestream matches, where no service has previously been available.

Fans watch the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations match between Ghana and Uganda in Kampala on January 17, 2017. (Photo credit ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Highlights have become the modern trend, with near-instant availability to the fan via the website or social media. How that footage is then re-shared is key. Once the product is branded with the Sky logo, it can then be on-shared by the All Blacks–attaching their logo. The viewing platforms change between media. That includes HD Smart Televisions in your home, office or to a mobile device.

All Access Web and Mobile Services Must be Authorized

One consideration is ownership. Sky TV has gone to court in New Zealand to limit and manage the sharing of their highlights. Many media sites; including Last Word on Rugby, include that footage in feature articles and online news. The rights-holder must be recognized (as LWOR does). Therefore All Blacks TV will be an authorized channel for Sky.

Unauthorized re-distribution is then the only worry for broadcasters. But LWOR can see the benefits, as does New Zealand Rugby. Steve Tew says “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 by extending our broadcast options.”

SKY CEO John Fellet said it was great to work with NZR to grow the All Blacks fans and brand. “Partners help each other to succeed. SKY has been the long-term broadcast partner of rugby in New Zealand and we are pleased to be providing our world class broadcast product on a livestreaming platform to get the All Blacks in front of their fans; regardless of where they live.”

The All Blacks may not be the first professional sports organization to offer this service, but they may have the largest appeal in rugby union. And that can only be good for the wider growth of the game, and for the integration of 21st century rugby viewing habits sooner than later.

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Editors Note: While Sky hold the rights, those are negotiable. From the major test matches to the specific four matches in this announcement, LWOR does caution that all games must be treated evenly. No fan wants midweek games added to future tours, if they only serve the purpose of demonstrating a new online option. 
The Maori All Blacks must still be shown the respect of having first-class opposition, as much as the All Blacks do. Extra matches add pressure onto the finite resources and objectives that a tour party currently holds.
36 names will be announced on Monday October 23 for the All Blacks end of year tour. LWOR hope that in future tours, the All Blacks don’t become an A and a B team; just to promote the brand or All Blacks TV.

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