With Spark and TVNZ's successful bid for the Rugby World Cup rights, attention has quickly turned to which games Kiwis will have to pay to watch.

Spark has already confirmed the opening match between Japan and Romania on September 20 as well as the final on November 2 will be live broadcast free-to-air on TVNZ.

That leaves five potential All Black games, the details of which the telco is keeping close to its chest at this stage.

A source familiar with the rugby rights negotiations has, however, told the Herald that TVNZ is likely to get the All Blacks semifinal, should the team make it that far.


According to the source, the remaining games would include a pool game but not the much-anticipated clash between South Africa and New Zealand.

The source also speculated that while negotiations were still ongoing it didn't look likely that TVNZ would get the quarter-final likely to feature the All Blacks against either Scotland or Ireland – tipped by sports nuts to potentially be one of the games of the tournament given the strength of the sides involved.

This means Kiwi audiences would likely have to pay to watch four of the five All Blacks games in the lead-up to the semifinal.

Spark and TVNZ would not comment specifically on the South Africa pool game or the quarter-finals, with a spokesperson from the telco simply saying that schedule information will be revealed well before the tournament starts.

These early All Blacks games will be integral for Spark as it looks to earn back some of the investment spent on the rugby rights, which, according to separate sources, cost over $10 million.

Spark managing director Simon Moutter suggested that the subscription package for the entire World Cup would set back Kiwis around $100.

To justify that spend, Spark needs to give subscribers value – and to most, that value can only come in the shape of All Blacks games.

One thing Spark has on its side is that it won't have to do much in the way of drumming up demand for the content.

Nielsen data shows that 2.9 million Kiwis tuned into the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and 3.2 million watched in 2011. And with Japan's time zone only three hours behind New Zealand, the turnout is again anticipated to be strong next year.

A challenge facing Spark, however, will be in familiarising the masses with its streaming platform and educating them on how to watch the content on a bigger screen.

The issue is particularly pressing given Nielsen data showing that only 38 per cent of Kiwi households have access to an internet-connected TV device.

The Spark spokesperson said the company was aware of this issue and planned to address in the lead-up to the event.

"We understand many people will wish to watch the games on a TV screen, and so we will absolutely be looking at how we can support those customers who want a bit of extra help to get themselves set up for the RWC2019," the spokesperson told the Herald.

"It's worth noting that there are around 500,000 smart TVs in New Zealand today – about the same number as there are homes with Sky Sports - and this number is growing at around 200,000 per year, as two-thirds of all new TV sales are smart TVs.

"On current trends, we reckon by the time of RWC2019 there will be well over a million homes with either a smart TV or a streaming device like Chromecast or Apple TV which makes their TV smart."

The spokesperson also said the company was looking at partnering with device manufacturers or electronics distributors to get Kiwis ready for the tournament.