Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
by Ted Hardy
I will be the first person to tell you that it is absolutely necessary that rugby, as a sport in America, comes with some sort of a price tag. It is an absolute must that rugby be associated with value. Be that for investors to advertisers all the way down to casual sports fans. That is a major problem that the game faces in the United States.
However, in the case of Universal Sport’s upcoming Rugby World Cup coverage, that value has been severely overestimated. With the World Cup set to kick off in a couple weeks, I checked into Universal Sports to look into their online World Cup Package. This is a package that I was fully expecting to purchase in order to enjoy every last drop of rugby’s biggest tournament.
To my chagrin, if I am to enjoy any World Cup coverage, it will need to come from another source. Universal Sports Rugby World Cup package comes in at a hefty $124.99. That is even with the $25 discount they are offering if you purchase the package now. For those that do not have Universal Sports on their cable and satellite provider (or want access to more games), that pricing will be a hard pill to swallow.
Broken down to each game, the pricing isn’t that all that bad, but if you throw away the number of meaningless pool play blowouts and get down to the really good games, the package isn’t all that great. The entire tournament may only produce ten or so truly memorable games.
To make matters even worse, the individual game pricing comes off as an attempt to strong arm people into buying the full package. I read it twice just to make sure that I wasn’t seeing it wrong. The going rate for individual pool round games is $24.99 per game. Yep, that’s right… $24.99 per game and once the tournament moves into the knockout rounds that number jumps to $29.99 per game. Those are hefty prices by any standard and pushing up towards the amount you’d spend on a pay per view boxing or MMA event. I just don’t see anyone forking over that type of money for a Romania vs. Scotland or any other matchup for that matter.
Remember, this is just online coverage of a tournament that lasts no more than two months. In comparison, you could purchase the NFL’s online package for just $39.99 (which I am now looking into since I won’t be paying for the RWC package). Throw in the NFL playoffs and the package comes in at $54.98. Major League Baseball’s impressive MLB.TV package is only $99.99 and that is an insane amount of games delivered as well or better than any other online sports broadcaster. Granted, both of those sports giants make far more money on the advertising, but if sports fans are faced with the choice of paying for online rugby content or going with the NFL, guess who is going to win?
I honestly expected more competitive pricing from Universal Sports. After all, this is rugby we’re talking about. While it is a world-wide sport played by millions, it has little footing in America and almost no broadcasting clout.
Knowing the IRB, the broadcasting rights to the World Cup likely cost NBC/Universal a significant amount of money. I expect that they will deliver top notch coverage of the World Cup and I hope they are able to recoup their investment. I had predetermined that I would purchase the package if it came in around $50, but this number isn’t even close. I might have stretched a little bit over that number, but not far. Even at the single game price of $24.99 per game, I surely won’t be picking out any single games to watch.
I never expected them to give away the games for free, but this is very disappointing.