Editorial: Sky the limit to ABs viewing

By Dylan Thorne


It says something about the state of the national game - and the advent of the professional era - that rugby fans could miss out on seeing the All Blacks play next weekend.

If it does come to pass, it will be the first time in the professional era an All Blacks match hasn't been screened live on television.

Sky TV is still locked in negotiations with an international brokerage company negotiating on behalf of the Italy Rugby Union to get the rights to broadcast the match.

Sky TV this week released its broadcast schedule for the rest of the year and the All Blacks' match with Italy at the Olympic Stadium in Rome is conspicuous by its absence.

Sky says the fee, based on the potential viewership the match brings, is the stumbling point.

It would be a low point of the professional era if the game is not broadcast but it is not entirely surprising that it's come to this given the money involved and the value of associated television rights.

There was a time when the names of All Blacks were etched in the national consciousness. In my view, the advent of professionalism has eroded that level of devotion and familiarity.

I'm not advocating a return to the amateur game but it is important to consider what has been lost as well as what has been gained through professionalism.

To me, the level of support or connection a fan feels for the All Blacks depends on whether they can afford a Sky television account or not.

A percentage of children have grown up without seeing All Black games live on television. They can catch delayed coverage but often it's on far too late.

Invariably, their perception of an All Black is now tied to a television advertisement featuring the high-profile player endorsing a product. The All Blacks, it could be argued, are now more a brand than a team.

Sky remain hopeful that a deal will be brokered but no doubt they are preparing for the significant public fallout if no agreement can be reached and the match does not hit our screens at the weekend.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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