How much was Spark willing to pay for rugby rights through to 2026?
We'll never know.
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"Spark did not submit a bid for these rugby rights," Spark spokesman Andrew Pirie says.
The Herald understands that Sky, as the incumbent, had an exclusive negotiating period with NZ Rugby and Sanzaar - and the deal announced this morning was wrapped up without any formal approach to Spark (although it's understood Spark had informally expressed its interest, should negotiations widen).
NZ Rugby decision not to include Spark in the formal negotiations also precluded any chance that broadcasting and online rights could be split - an approach commonly taken by major sporting codes overseas.
A spokeswoman for NZ Rugby said, "NZR had discussions with Spark earlier in the year during a non-exclusivity period. We assessed that the deal on the table from Sky was positive enough to continue negotiations with a long-standing partner."
The deal included NZ Rugby being given a 5 per cent holding in Sky, worth $19 million at Friday's closing price (Sky shares jumped 20 per cent this morning as the deal was revealed).
Adrian Allbon, a senior analyst at Craigs Investment Partners, said the deal would make it harder for rivals to take the rugby rights off Sky in the future.
He went as far as saying, "Spark Sport is effectively locked out of rugby."
Comment has also been made by this author that the deal conflicts the Rugby Union, because awarding future rights to Spark would diminish the value of its Sky shares.
However, Spark's Pirie took no immediate objection to that development, saying it was up to Sky whether it issued shares as part of any deal.
In an announcement posted to the New Zealand Stock Exchange this morning, Sky told investors it had finalised the major deal.
The company did not say how much the deal was worth, but sources suggested Sky tabled an offer of $400 million back in September (which sounds like a ton of money, but according to insiders represents a comparatively modest $10m a year increase on the current deal).
The company confirmed that the cost of the rights materially increased from its current arrangements.
The deal includes All Blacks tests, Super Rugby and Mitre 10 Cup matches.
News of the deal first broke last week Friday, when sources told the Herald the deal was in the final stages.
Sky said today the deal was reached on the evening of October 13 and was subject to shareholder approval at this Thursday's annual meeting.