Sky Network Television has locked in the broadcasting rights for rugby worlds cups through to 2029 and found a buyer for its RugbyPass streaming platform at the same time, having stitched up a deal with World Rugby.
The agreement covers the broadcasting rights from 2023 to 2029 for every men’s and every women’s rugby world cup, the new international women’s fifteens (WXV) competition and the HSBC world rugby sevens series.
The deal includes the sale of RugbyPass to World Rugby for an undisclosed sum, although Sky flagged it was in talks to sell the business for $11 million in its annual report.
Chief executive Sophie Moloney said Sky’s goal was to “connect New Zealanders with the sport and entertainment they love” in ways that worked for them.
“This agreement secures exclusive access to all of World Rugby’s premium competitions for many years and we look forward to offering them to all New Zealanders on the Sky Box, our streaming services and free-to-air,” she said.
Moloney said the partnership included an agreement to co-produce “exciting new programming” with an emphasis on the women’s game – coinciding with the world cup kicking off over the weekend – which was a “strategic priority” for both Sky and World Rugby.
Sky TV bought RugbyPass in 2019 for US$30m in cash and shares and a further US$10m based on the platform’s performance. It later slashed $27.5m from the goodwill of RugbyPass during the covid-19 pandemic.
Sky said it was in “advanced discussions” with World Rugby over a possible deal in July earlier this year.
World Rugby said in a statement that the RugbyPass streaming platform was an “established destination” for rugby fans across the globe and had a combined monthly audience of more than seven million.
The deal with Sky TV was a “landmark step” in World Rugby’s strategic mission to grow the sport globally.
World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said the sporting body had plans to “grow the global rugby family” which meant that rugby had to become more accessible and relevant to people.
“This deal reflects that mission,” he said.
“We are excited by this deal and its potential to unify a very fragmented rights environment and support our unions by creating an engaged and unified audience that benefits everyone.”
Sky TV fell 0.9% to $2.20 in light trading when the NZX opened.