4 Mar 2010

Key Rugby World Cup games to screen live and free

10:39 am on 4 March 2010

Key 2011 Rugby World Cup matches including the final and semifinals will be shown live on free-to-air television in New Zealand.

The company running the event, Rugby World Cup Ltd, announced on Wednesday that free broadcast rights for the tournament have been awarded to a consortium formed between Maori Television Service, Television New Zealand and TV3.

Maori Television initially put in a bid for sole free-to-air broadcasting rights, but the Government intervened. A bid led by Maori Television and supported by TVNZ and TV3 received backing from the Government last year.

Rugby World Cup Ltd says the deal to secure broadcasting rights cost significantly more than the $3.2 million committed by the Government, but would not disclose the exact amount.

Managing director Mike Miller told Checkpoint the cost of producing 48 matches in high definition is far more than the Government's contribution and the company will just about cover its costs with the deal negotiated.

Maori Television will screen 16 of the main games live, including the semifinals and the final at Eden Park in Auckland, along with delayed coverage of the other 32 matches.

TVNZ and TV3 will screen seven live games, including the semifinals and the final. The opening ceremony will be shown live on Maori Television and TVNZ.

All 48 tournament matches are being produced and screened live by pay TV and host broadcaster Sky Television.

Maori Television chief executive Jim Mather told Morning Report it is satisfied but not happy with the free-to-air broadcast deal after originally seeking exclusive free-to-air broadcasting rights.

"We can still achieve all the objectives we set out to achieve; promoting the Maori language and culture, raising the profile of Maori Television, and also ensuring that there's a Maori dimension to the Rugby World Cup tournament."

Maori Television's coverage will include 10% of the matches broadcast in the Maori language, Te Reo.

New Zealand flavour

The chief executive of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Martin Snedden says the sharing of free-to-air broadcast will promote competition for viewers and better coverage.

He told Morning Report that Maori Television's role will add a specifically New Zealand identity and flavour to the championships.

Mr Snedden says all channels are going to have to work hard to win their share of the television audience.

The Government says the broadcasters televising free-to-air games have an important role to play in the success of the event.

Acting Rugby World Cup Minister Gerry Brownlee says the world needs to know New Zealanders can successfully host such events and the people who come to them.