February 11, 2012

"Absolute possibilities" for SANZAR expansion says Peters

SANZAR CEO Greg Peters

"Absolute possibilities" for SANZAR expansion says Peters

By James Mortimer

The chance to tap into the massive economies and population of North America and Asia, primarily US and Japanese markets, is something SANZAR will explore, with the former American broadcasting landscape boggling the mind with astronomical numbers.

SANZAR started a new five-year deal last season which is worth US$437 million until the end of 2015, a significant increase for the News Corp contract, up US$114 million or 35 percent on the old deal which effectively spanned Super 14.

Peters and SANZAR are exploring growth into new markets at the end of the current Super Rugby deal, and other countries could be included, as already the broadcasting reach is impressive.

In Australia the market is dominated by the AFL deal, with its AUD$1.25 billion (US$1.33) the biggest in the country, but globally even their massive 2012-2016 arrangement is dwarfed by the American sport’s market.

The NFL recently confirmed it had signed a nine-year deal worth a reported US$27.9 billion with CBS, Fox and NBC, announced after a separate eight-year contract with Walt Disney ESPN for over $US15 billion – well beyond US$4 billion per season.

America and Japan have long been considered sleeping giants in rugby, and the beast has certainly stirred of late with millions of dollars being put aside for Sevens, as rugby prepares for re-admission into the Olympics in 2016.

Not only this, but Argentina has been welcomed further into the SANZAR fold with their inclusion into The Rugby Championship – although not as an official partner at this stage – and could be ripe for Super Rugby expansion in years to come.

SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters told the Daily Telegraph in Sydney that a new deal could cover Northern Hemisphere countries.

"There's absolutely possibilities within the States and Japan for increased television revenue, and that has a lot to do with Sevens being in the Olympic Games in 2016," Peters said.

"The interest in rugby in new territories has grown on the back of the Sevens' introduction to the Olympics, so there's a real opportunity to take that Sevens to 15s, and see what it might look like.

He said Argentina could take on a bigger role with SANZAR competitions.

"Then of course we've got Argentina coming into the Rugby Championship, so I'm sure Argentina has aspirations to have a greater involvement with SANZAR or in SANZAR competitions in the future, we obviously would need to be talking to them, and we need to drive more commercial revenue out of that part of the world."

The United States Olympic Committee recently announced they had made USA Rugby a full member, and already part of a US$43 million dollar USOC funding approval has been given to the Eagles Sevens counterparts.

The chance to win another Olympic medal opens the proverbial bank vault for many rugby programmes, with minnows such as Russia gaining increased funding, while even established heavyweights like New Zealand have increased their Sevens’ financial resources.

Japan, who has already hosted Bledisloe Cup matches, was included in the World Sevens Series circuit this month, and will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.