Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Sky's Rugby Channel just a rort - no wonder its numbers are on the slide

Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand breaks away for a try during the 2016 Wellington Sevens pool match between New Zealand and Russia. Photo / Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand breaks away for a try during the 2016 Wellington Sevens pool match between New Zealand and Russia. Photo / Getty Images

The cheek of it. No wonder Sky's subscriber numbers are creeping downwards.

The Sydney Sevens and the world circuit (apart from Wellington) have been parked behind what could be called a second paywall known as the Rugby Channel.

Sky delivers a staggering amount of world sport but we are paying more than enough already, without forking out extra to watch something as main stream as sevens/rugby.

New Zealanders are lucky on one hand because the cost of ground tickets/season passes is unbelievably cheap by world standards. Liverpool EPL fans staged a walkout this weekend, at the prospect of paying up to $170 a ticket next season.

Eight-game Blues rugby passes cost about that. But the TV side of it is anything but cheap and Sky's prices keep creeping up.

"You greedy bastards, enough is enough," the Liverpool fans chanted. Indeed.

How does Sky justify an extra-cost Rugby Channel? Answer: they don't have to. They've got us over a barrel, and the arrival of Netflix and co. has emphasised how much we are over-paying for Sky's rigid packaging.

Sky, all-powerful while it has the rugby contract, tries to make customers feel better by squeezing in extra content - come on down Oprah Winfrey - as a smokescreen for ignoring true user pays.

Competitor prices are revealing. Netflix is probably the dominant service in our house, and it costs loose change every month.

In stark contrast, Sky tops $100, with the added expense of an annoying $200 a year to watch the English Premier League on Coliseum.

What is surprising is that the rugby honchos in Wellington support (presumably) Sky charging rugby fans extra ($8.81 a month) for its Rugby Channel.

This doesn't make sense from a rugby promotion view. In this case potential rugby customers will bypass the sevens, which is touted as an exciting shop window particularly as it is Olympic year.

The union and Sky might also think on this: they only get to deliver rugby to the masses because of ratepayer generosity in providing facilities around the country. There is a moral consideration.

Sky profits are actually up. It's about time they gave customers a chance to send their fees downwards with far more flexible subscriptions. They might even end up with more customers if they do.


Speaking of the English Premier League, there is a fairytale going on in football's mega-money world.

Little Leicester City is not only handling the pressure, they are revelling in it atop the EPL.

The shock leaders were paying as much as 5000-1 to win the league going into the season. They were beyond being outsiders. They were absolute no-hopers.

Their latest victory, at superpowers Manchester City, has made just about everyone believers in their title credentials. Leicester City defend immaculately and counter attack with speed. They suck opponents forward, and leave them gasping as they launch counter attacks.

Algerian Riyad Mahrez, a goalscoring midfielder, is the star of the show. He was signed from a French division two club for just $1m, which is akin to being freebie in this league. Manager Claudio Ranieri is proving that instant miracles and turnarounds are possible even at the very highest levels of sport. It is already shaping as the story of the year.


Question of the weekend: why were the drop kick conversions at the league Nines so poor? Don't they practice at all?


Star of the week: Nines jack-in-the-box Shaun Johnson - the key to the Warriors 2016 hopes looked as though he will get back to his lively best after returning from a broken ankle suffered mid-2015.

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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