Internet Provided Television is the way forward for Super Rugby
With both the AFL and NRL securing lucrative broadcasting deals with Seven, Nine and Foxtel, the question will soon be asked: what is left for rugby among the scraps?
Considering the surge in viewership witnessed since the enactment of the current deal (somewhere in the realm of 30%), SANZAR could and should be looking for a significantly improved combined TV rights agreement.
Well, in theory anyway. From an Australian perspective, with football also chasing an improved media deal, we really must question whether much will be left in the major broadcasters’ kitties for rugby.
It’s a question that really needs to be addressed, and possible alternatives must be devised. It would be safe to assume that once again Super Rugby will be confined to Pay TV, something many have decried throughout its existence, with free-to-air coverage seen as the vessel through which to expand the game’s reach.
However, money talks, and as a code rugby has had to take the surest bet. Pay TV is the platform which has sustained the game since the inception of Super Rugby.
Having said that, the world of broadcasting is changing at an ever-increasing rate of knots. There is no better example of this than IPTV (Internet Provided Television).
The concept of IPTV isn’t new. In fact, we can look to some of the largest sporting competitions overseas for guidance. Even the NBL in Australia has recently developed subscription IPTV content.
How many of you only subscribe to Foxtel for the rugby? How many of you have been annoyed by the price? You and I have a lot in common.
What if you could watch the entire Super Rugby season for a comparatively poultry $200? Would you seriously consider making the switch to IPTV?
Here’s what I have been pondering.
We are lead to believe that the true value of the SANZAR deal is in the former Tri Nations, now The Rugby Championship. Fair enough.
Thus the question has always this: how do we garner more interest in Super Rugby, hence developing the value of the code?
The conference system has been the most significant attempt at achieving this, with pleasing results. But we have yet to determine exactly how much value it has added.
I think IPTV is worth a look. SANZAR and its partners could develop a channel based on, say, a $200 12 month subscription (less than $17 a month).
Are there enough rugby fans across the SANZAR nations to make this idea work? Perhaps. If a million viewers subscribed it would yield an average annual income of $200 million.
Sound like great value? It does from my perspective.
There would also be an opportunity to include Argentina in the deal. By creating an even, four-way split, we could further integrate Argentina into the fold. There could even be a chance to create our own alternative to the Heineken Cup.
The current Super Rugby format could conceivably split into four distinct competitions, with South Africa getting its Currie Cup, New Zealand its ITM Cup and Australia its own domestic competition. Add in a professionalised version of the Campenato Argentino and we could have the making of a whole new Super Rugby format, akin to the HEC and Challenge Cups in Europe.
Now, many will see this as limiting the game’s reach to a select few, forgoing the benefits of a larger audience. I agree. It would.
However, it is unlikely to occur. Finances are tight, and as I mentioned earlier in the piece, SANZAR has to take the money where it can to fund its member unions.
Another problem with rugby at the moment is a lack of development at the grassroots level. Many blame this underdevelopment on a lack of funds.
But what if a move to IPTV could double the annual income of each union? We could expose more kids to the game, hooking their interest, which would (in theory) lead to more subscribers in the future.
Some may argue that the IPTV movement is only in its infancy and that it may be a decade before it really finds its place. But why wait? Let’s be early adaptors instead of mere followers.
The possibilities are endless.
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