Pay-television broadcaster Sky New Zealand has extended its rights deal with New Zealand Rugby, with a “revolutionary” new contract involving the sport’s national governing body becoming an investor in Sky.
The five-year deal announced extends Sky’s existing broadcast rights to competitions organised by SANZAAR, rugby union’s regional governing body comprising the unions of South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, to 2025.
The contract running from 2021 to 2025 includes exclusive coverage of all Rugby Championship national team matches, the Steinlager Series featuring the All Blacks, the Super Rugby and Mitre 10 Cup club tournaments and all New Zealand’s other domestic competitions, including women’s competitions like the Farah Palmer Cup.
Sky currently holds the rights in a contract spanning from 2016 to 2020 and had been seeking a further five-year extension from 2021 onwards, stating last month that failing to secure the contract would represent a “significant threat to shareholder value”. Financial terms of the new deal were not disclosed, but it is reported to be worth as much as NZ$400m ($252m). Sky said in a statement to investors that the rights have “materially increased” from its current arrangements.
Sky said the 5% equity stake to be taken by NZR recognises the “increased alignment and strengthened relationship” between the two parties, their mutual support for one another and shared commitment to develop and promote the game.
New Zealand Rugby Chairman Brent Impey has denied the stake agreement presents any potential issues in terms of conflict of interest, telling the New Zealand Herald newspaper that the governing body would not prevent Sky from bidding for other rugby rights.
Sky is currently in the midst of a battle in the domestic market with telco Spark. The latter company is currently broadcasting the Rugby World Cup and its streaming service has come in for criticism. Impey stated the “so-called technical glitches” of Spark had nothing to do with NZR awarding the rights to Sky, but admitted that reaching rural New Zealand was a “critical part” of the discussions.
The announcement marks the latest in a flurry of high-profile sports rights deals in New Zealand. Spark recently landed another blow in its ongoing battle with Sky by replacing the broadcaster as New Zealand Cricket’s domestic rights-holder in its latest tie-up with public broadcaster TVNZ.
Later in the week, Sky extended an exclusive agreement with the International Cricket Council to continue delivering coverage of its events for the next four years. The NZC agreement, which took the rights away from Sky, led to the broadcaster’s share price plummeting to an all-time low.