Extra ads after World Cup hakas

By Michael Dickison

It's the Kiwi Super Bowl, and channels are cashing in. Photo / Mark Mitchell
It's the Kiwi Super Bowl, and channels are cashing in. Photo / Mark Mitchell

TV ad breaks have been inserted between haka and kick-offs and halftime ad breaks have been lengthened to push the Rugby World Cup toward Super Bowl-like marketability.

Tonight's opening match between the All Blacks and Tonga will cut to adverts on most channels - including pay-TV operator Sky - after the exchange of haka rather than going straight to the start of play.

"There's a danger that it will be a real annoyance to viewers who are used to seeing the haka and getting right into the game," said media analyst Martin Gillman, a partner at communications company MGCOM.

The opening ceremony is expected to be the biggest television drawcard in New Zealand this year.

"It's a risky strategy because generally people react against over- commercialisation and it's a borderline case," Mr Gillman said.

"It's almost in hallowed territory - the haka is special to Kiwis."

The halftime break has been extended from 10 minutes to 12.

The four 30-second slots this will create are worth about $21,000 each - a total of $84,000 - and the 90-second breaks before kick-offs are even more lucrative.

"And that's just in New Zealand," said Mr Gillman. "If you think what the equivalent value will be in Australia, and what it will be in Europe - across the duration of the World Cup it's going to go into the millions of euros."

The International Rugby Board changed its rules last year to allow halftime breaks of up to 15 minutes.

An IRB spokesman said the average duration of halftime at test matches was already 12 minutes and 30 seconds.

Advertising buffers were commonplace in major sports events and had been employed by some broadcasters covering Rugby World Cups, the spokesman said.

But Maori Television's general manager of programming, Haunui Royal, said the channel had decided against putting advertising between the haka and kick-offs, forgoing the extra revenue to continue the on-field feed and commentary.

"You will still see the teams and the faces," Mr Royal said.

"New Zealand fans who have never been used to this would have been suddenly chucked to an advert when everyone's revved for the game. So as soon as the teams run on the field, we're about the rugby."

A Television New Zealand spokeswoman said TV One had opted to have 60 seconds of advertisements in the 90-second slot.

"We just thought it was a bit much. But it's just a commercial reality these days," the spokeswoman said.

"What we're particularly keeping a watch out for [tonight] is how the haka will go, because normally Tonga do the haka at the same time the All Blacks do theirs... We don't want to miss either of them."

A TVNZ commentator would use the 30-second buffer to warn viewers of the impending advertisements to avoid a surprise, she said.

Mr Gillman and the TVNZ spokeswoman said the extra advertising times had been requested by British broadcaster ITV.

"ITV asked for the break extension at halftime ... and the local networks are merely going along with it," Mr Gillman said.

"ITV has the rights to the 2015 World Cup [in England] and it's gearing up to that because that's where it's going to make money."

The 90-second slots before kick-offs have been reserved for official broadcast sponsors Heineken, Telecom and Bunnings Warehouse.

"It's like the Super Bowl in America... ITV is trying to do something like that, because it's a premium spot," the TVNZ spokeswoman said.

Sky Television spokeswoman Kirsty Way said the company would follow the IRB's international standard format and show 90 seconds of advertising before kick-offs.

"I don't think it's anything new... It's nothing out of the ordinary and I don't think anyone will be put off."

Sky TV advertises uninterrupted coverage of matches. Ms Way said this was true from the opening whistle through all minutes of play.

MediaWorks spokeswoman Rachel Lorimer said TV3, too, would take up the option to have 90-second advertising breaks before kick-offs.

"We feel it's pre-kick-off so it doesn't interfere with the game, and I think it's standard on an international level."

Ms Lorimer said viewers would choose channels based on the different teams of commentators.

WHAT YOU'LL GET

* TV One: 60 seconds of advertising and 30 seconds of talk between haka and kick-off.

* TV3: 90 seconds of advertising after haka.

* Maori TV: No adverts and 90 seconds of commentary after haka.

* Sky TV: 90 seconds of adverts after haka.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 28 Jul 2014 21:34:36 Processing Time: 822ms