’It’s an insult’: Fans slam TVNZ over Games as RWC looms

Commonwealth Games gold medals - Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2018 www.photosport.nz

TVNZ has been criticised by fans over its coverage of the Commonwealth Games, even as it prepares to broadcast next year's Rugby World Cup.

The state-owned broadcaster announced yesterday it had won the rights along with Spark to broadcast seven games from next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan on free-to-air television, with Spark set to livestream the rest of the event via an app.

However, it has been facing much criticism from fans on twitter over the lack of coverage of certain Commonwealth Games events on free to air television, and its timing of ad breaks.

Despite the complaints, 2.3 million people live-streamed the games online, but traditional media still came out on top with nearly three million people watching via free-to-air TV.

Indeed, the Games have been New Zealand's most successful to date.

According to research company Neilson's data from last year, broadcast television reaches 77 percent of New Zealanders each week on average.

Tawa resident Joan Cutting, 94, was one of them and was angry she could not just turn the TV on to watch the games.

"If I can't watch it, I'm going to be be absolutely lost without my rugby, because it means everything to me, I've watched rugby all my life, my boys have played rugby, I'm a rugby fanatic," she said.

Ms Cutting does not have access to the internet and feared she and others would be unable to watch the World Cup games. She said she had subscribed to Sky so she could watch rugby.

A TVNZ spokesperson told RNZ the streaming of TV would only grow as more New Zealanders adopt digital viewing habits.

Internet NZ chief executive Jordan Carter also said there would need to be a change of mindset for some New Zealanders.

"People who are used to a TV show appearing at a certain time on a set channel and are hoping for the olden days of free-to-air rugby or big sporting events are going to get increasingly disappointed as time goes on, because these days broadcasters are following the money and the money is around those choices," he said.

Some rural viewers and older New Zealanders would be affected more than others, he said.

Research commissioned by NZ On Air in 2016 backed this up, showing more 15 to 34-year-olds streamed online video than watched linear TV each day.

Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) secretariat Ernie Newman said while there was a digital gap between New Zealanders, it was quickly closing.

"I think most people these days see the value in being able to go on and watch these things when it suits them, and I think by the time the Rugby World Cup comes around, people will expect to see it on the internet," he said.

Ernie Newman said age or location should not be a factor in accessing the Rugby World Cup.

"I'm no spring chicken and I can handle the technology very well, and I think most people of my generation can. There is no reason why just about everywhere in New Zealand shouldn't be able to get the rugby World Cup over the internet."

Mr Newman said Wireless Internet Service Providers could get affordable broadband to anywhere in the country in time for the World Cup.

Spark has also promised to rise to the occasion for people who don't have high quality broadband.

"The government-sponsored rural broadband initiative will mean thousands more New Zealanders will have access to quality broadband by the time the Rugby World Cup comes around," the company said.

"However, we recognise there won't be broadband available to every rural home or farm by then," they said.

The company said it was actively looking for solutions for those New Zealanders with no broadband, including installing the necessary equipment in venues like rugby club rooms.