New deal to help grow rugby

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

ARU CEO Bill Pulver says the newly announced broadcast deal will aim to grow Rugby's fanbase.

Under the $285 million ARU 2016-2020 broadcast deal announced on Thursday morning, Network Ten will broadcast the June Series, Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Tests.

For the first time since the competition’s inception, a Super Rugby match of the round replay will be on Sunday mornings while a one-hour highlights show will become a regular free-to-air feature on Monday nights.

This free-to-air coverage is on top of that of FOX SPORTS, which will feature Wallabies Tests, Super Rugby, Sevens and the Buildcorp NRC live.

Pulver said he hoped the new deal would encourage the next generation to pick up the game, while also helping maintain the optimism around elite sides.

“One of our major focuses is to expand young boys and girls starting to play rugby today,” he said.

“We've got some wonderful platforms to do that, not only through the traditional 15s side of the game, but Sevens is growing very rapidly.

“The World Cup was a wonderful reflection of how important the elite aspect of the game is.

“We’ve got a terrific year in ‘16 coming up and plenty of opportunity to see the Wallabies, plenty of opportunity to see our Men’s and Women’s Sevens teams so high performance outcomes will be another beneficial element.”

Network Ten CEO Paul Anderson said the network felt it played a critical role in helping to grow Rugby to a wider audience.

“This is our major winter code,” he said.

“We have a great team, we have our own look and feel from a free-to-air perspective but also we broadcast to 100 per cent of the population,” he said.

“We’ve got a blueprint that we use with some other sports that we share with FOX SPORTS which broadens that coverage to pretty much everyone in Australia.

“We talk about expanding the fan base and we’re a critical piece of that.”

FOX SPORTS CEO Patrick Delaney said the education aspect was critical in 2016, saying the network would build on initiatives introduced this year, off the back of Australia’s World Cup run.

“Things like scrums, lineouts and rucks and mauls are where you get the contention of the ball - that makes this game unique.

“So I think, if we do anything, the innovation is going to be in and around that...getting people inside scrums, not literally, but for them to understand.

“We started doing that in the second Bledisloe and we saw it with the use of spidercam in the World Cup.

“I think people became very cognizant of the pilfering idea because we became good at it in rucks and mauls.

“We’ve got the fanatics and we know the fanatics will stick real hard.

“The goal that we have is to broaden the fan base and expand into those who love sport to understand and love rugby too.”