Some headlines are still emphasising the free-to-air component for next year's Rugby World Cup television coverage.

The more important print talks about streaming.

The time has probably arrived for the masses to jump on this runaway wagon. Sports broadcasting in New Zealand has reached a watershed moment, when it steps fully into a new age during the tournament next year.

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TVNZ, Spark confirm they've won rights to Rugby World Cup

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The future is already here of course, but a lot of people have been ignoring internet sports broadcasting and maybe even hoping it will go way. Sports streaming is certainly not going away, and those who have already adopted it have found the experience to be exciting rather than the scary monster some still think it will be.

There are some added costs of course. This may, for instance, involve buying an additional device so you can get the streaming content to play on your old TV. Internet sports watching doesn't mean having to view games on computers, phones or tablets. Far from it.

Sports fans can still watch all the sport they want on that big TV monitor, but the way it gets there, the way they pay for it, is changing radically.

Many people do however watch sport on smaller devices such as tablets, and because high resolution broadcasting is crammed into a small screen the result makes for very sharp viewing.

Brothers Scott Barrett, left, Jordie Barrett and Beauden Barrett, right, of New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images.
Brothers Scott Barrett, left, Jordie Barrett and Beauden Barrett, right, of New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images.

The moment of truth has arrived for many people, with today's confirmation of how the coverage will work for the 2019 rugby World Cup in Japan.

A lot of the important detail is still missing, including the cost. But subscriber service Spark, who have secured the rights alongside free-to-air broadcasters TVNZ, are promising flexible costing which includes being able to buy one game at a time.

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One big question is whether the technology stands up — in high internet demand will your screen freeze. How will the old ADSL copper broadband, which is being replaced by fibre, cope.

But many sports/rugby fans, particularly older ones, who have ignored this medium will have to learn how it works. This includes discovering how to link computers, tablets and phones to traditional TV monitors. Time to ring the grandkids perhaps.

A cluster of football fans had to get their heads around the internet route when the rights to the English Premier league were secured by Coliseum in 2013.

To some, the internet coverage is already old hat, a natural part of their entertainment lives. But the fact is, there are many people who have either resisted this change, or are intimidated by it.

It's hard to know what the subscriber take-up might be. The matches in Japan will kick-off between 6pm and midnight NZ time, which is ideal viewing time.

Unlike Australia, which is also going through a traditional v digital sports battle, New Zealand does not have laws ensuring that major sport stays on free-to-air coverage.

So the 2019 RWC is probably the event that will flick the switch towards the internet in this country. In the deal between TVNZ and Spark, just seven matches including the final will be shown live/free-to-air on TVNZ.

Even if many fans decide this is enough, or could be enough, many will also decide that the time has arrived to discover what internet sports is all about, what the world truly has to offer.

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