Maori TV ends with 'crumbs' in rugby fight

By Patrick Gower

Maori TV will have to share all of the big World Cup games with its rivals under the new bid. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Maori TV will have to share all of the big World Cup games with its rivals under the new bid. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Maori Television's battle for the Rugby World Cup television rights has ended in a total walkover with it now sharing all of the big games with the major channels.

Maori TV had hoped for exclusive free-to-air rights but will instead have to make do with the All Blacks trampling over Canada and a minnow nation from Asia such as Japan or Kazakhstan.

All the other All Blacks games and the finals from the quarters onwards will be shared with TVNZ and TV3 under the Government bid announced yesterday, meaning viewers have no reason to switch over to Maori TV.

While Maori TV are leading the bid, it is in name only - in terms of actual games it is getting little more than those on offer under the TVNZ-led bid proposed by Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman last week.

Chief executive Jim Mather called that proposal patronising and "leaving Maori TV the crumbs".

Maori TV's exclusive coverage of the All Blacks versus Canada and the Asian qualifier will mean thousands of New Zealanders who do not pick up the channel - including entire towns like Blenheim - will miss out seeing those games on free-to-air.

Prime Minister John Key had originally demanded that all New Zealanders be able to see the games free-to-air, but yesterday said there was a choice and it decided to give these minor games to Maori TV and keep the more interesting clashes for the big broadcasters.

Mr Key said the bid - which will have to be accepted by the International Rugby Board - would be backed by Government money.

It is understood the bid is for about $5 million, with TVNZ and TV3 putting up $1 million each. The rest will be met by Maori TV and the Government.

Maori TV's share will still include some money from the Ministry of Maori Development, Te Puni Kokiri, but Mr Key said this would be substantially less than the $3 million it offered when the bid was for exclusive rights.

TV3 is the big winner in the bid, getting to screen the crucial All Blacks v France pool game and the finals. Asked why the private broadcaster was able to piggy-back on a Government-funded bid, Mr Key said it was putting in its own money and wasn't "getting a free ride".

He noted the promotion both TVNZ and TV3 could offer the tournament, an important factor given it is forecast to make a $39.3 million loss that could balloon further if ticket sales flop. The bid will go to the IRB immediately, with a response hoped for this week or next.

The bid will see blanket coverage, with some games screened on up to six channels at once: TVNZ, TV3, Maori TV, Te Reo, on free-to-air, and Sky and the Rugby channel on pay TV.

Mr Key said $300 million of Government money was being invested in the Rugby World Cup, and taxpayers deserved free-to-air coverage. "You can never get too much rugby," he said.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples conceded the bid was only "slightly" different to that put forward by Dr Coleman, but believed he could still get some of the gains he envisaged with the original Maori TV bid.

* The Government's latest plan

Live coverage

Opening ceremony and All Blacks v Tonga: TVNZ and Maori TV.

All Blacks v France: TV3 and Maori TV.

All Blacks v Canada, Asia qualifier: Maori TV only.

Quarter-finals, semifinals, final, third-fourth playoff: TVNZ, TV3 and Maori TV.

Seven other pool games: Maori TV.

Delayed coverage

The 32 remaining games: Maori TV.

On pay TV

All 48 games will be live on Sky.

- NZ Herald

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