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Sky, New Zealand Rugby create ‘revolutionary’ rights deal

October 14, 2019 GMT

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand Rugby has sold broadcast rights to All Blacks matches for the next five years in what has been described as a “revolutionary” deal, at the same time taking a 5% stake in successful bidder Sky New Zealand.

The deal, which gives Sky rights to broadcast test and Super Rugby matches and comes at a time of upheaval in New Zealand sports broadcasting.

New Zealand’s telecommunications company Spark, formerly Telecom, recently outbid Sky for the rights to televise the Rugby World Cup. Those rights are held by World Rugby, not by New Zealand Rugby.

Spark has been streaming the World Cup matches, not broadcasting them as Sky does on cable television. In a further coup, Spark recently paid a premium to win the rights to broadcast international cricket matches played in New Zealand from next April.

Sky had previously held those rights and retains the rights to matches played overseas by the New Zealand cricket team.

New Zealand Rugby’s new deal with Sky reportedly was made in relative secret.

Because the deal exceeds a threshold of 235 million New Zealand dollars ($148 million), it is subject to approval by Sky shareholders. Sky shares have been falling because of its recent loss of rights to Spark but stocks rallied Monday with news of the latest rights deal.

The further step of NZR claiming a 5% stake in Sky NZ, valued Monday at around NZ$18 million ($11.6 million), is unprecedented.

Sky chief executive Martin Stewart did not confirm the amount paid for the rights and said people should “forget about numbers put out there in an unauthorized way.” But he said the cost had increased “materially” over the previous rights period and represented a record investment by Sky in All Blacks and Super Rugby.

He said the sale of the stake to New Zealand Rugby was a “one-off” and unlikely to be repeated in other sports rights deal.

“I think you have to look at the importance of rugby within New Zealand and the DNA of what it means to be a Kiwi and I think it is a pretty unique situation,” Stewart said.

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