James Mortimer 28.Aug.2013Getty Images
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said it was a crucial time for the game and the organisation, as they looked to work on a tournament that has provided a significant financial slice to all levels of rugby in the country.
Super Rugby, a competition that has clearly benefitted New Zealand, providing 12 of the 18 winners, expanded in 2011 to include a conference format that extended the season to 21 weeks, a five-week increase from the Super 14, and a total seven-week jump from the old Super 12.
The new format, with New Zealand, Australia and South Africa now split up into five-team conferences rather than the traditional ladder round robin, was designed to potentially allow the inclusion of new conferences (territories).
Argentina is one, while markets such as Asia and America hold appeal, but Tew said the crucial element was ensuring the tournament’s sustainability.
“We think we’ve had a good competition over the last 18 years,” he said.
“We’re keen to preserve it in a form that will be future-proof.”
Part of that future proofing will be further yielding the amount of Super Rugby available, and Tew said that potentially new avenues, such as digital, online or live streaming, could be part of the eventual broadcasting deal.
The English Premier League and the NFL recently ‘split’ their broadcasting deals, breaking the traditional format of selling to one party only, by spreading their sellable resources to both traditional pay TV platforms as well as digitally focused offerings.
“All three countries have pay television platforms that rely on a lot of content,” Tew said.
“This competition provides a lot of content. Sky will remain an important partner until the end of this deal and it will be a brave person who predicts they won’t be an important part of the next one.”
“But we’re encouraged by what modern technology is giving us, including the opportunity to view things on more than one screen.”
New Zealand Rugby and SANZAR had an aim to sign off the arrangement so it can start being presented formally to broadcasters, although Tew said dialogue had already begun.
“That is not without its complexities and then we will be in the market next year but in reality we are already talking to broadcasters,” he said.