23 Sep 2009

Sky promises free-to-air Games coverage

7:35 pm on 23 September 2009

Sky Television has given an assurance New Zealanders will see free-to-air coverage of next year's Commonwealth Games, after TVNZ dropped its rights to broadcast the event.

State-owned broadcaster Television New Zealand has said that in the present economic climate it does not have the resources to cover the expected $5 million loss on screening the 2010 Games in Delhi.

In a statement, Sky Television said if its bid is accepted, viewers will be guaranteed comprehensive free-to-air coverage.

Sky also said that as a publicly listed company it informs the stock-exchange before making any announcements of note.

The deal will go before the Games organising committee for approval within the next two weeks.

TVNZ publicist Megan Richards says the state broadcaster will still bid for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but the extent of the bid will be circumscribed by its financial circumstances.

The Labour Party says TVNZ has been forced to concede its rights to the Commonwealth Games as the Government demands an increased dividend.

Broadcasting spokesperson Brendon Burns believes TVNZ has been put in an unfortunate position and New Zealanders have a fundamental right to see their athletes perform without having to pay for the privilege.

However, Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman dismissed Labour's claim, saying TVNZ's decision to relinquish its Games rights was a commercial reality.