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America's Cup 36 announce first free to air broadcast package

by Richard Gladwell, 30 May 2018 14:46 PDT 31 May 2018
Camera boat - Race 1 - Qualifiers - Day 1, 35th America's Cup, Bermuda, May 27, 2017 © Richard Gladwell

America's Cup organisers have announced the first of a series of deal for free to air coverage for the 36th America's Cup and preliminary regattas.

Long time America's Cup broadcaster Television NZ has been awarded an exclusive free to air TV broadcast, a similar agreement has been signed with Newstalk ZB and Radio Sport for live radio coverage.

The deal, which covers all preliminary events starting next year with the America's World Series in 2019.

The arrangement returns to the free to air broadcast model that has been in place since the 1987 America's Cup in Fremantle. That relationship was only altered last year when America's Cup Events Authority chose to sign a broadcast deal with Sky TV in New Zealand. SkyTV are a subscription only broadcaster. The deal was followed by similar deals with subscription only broadcasters, except for the home territory of Bermuda.

The free TVNZ coverage may not be available throughout the world ie outside the NZ broadcast territory and it remains to be seen how web coverage will be affected.

Also not clear in the media announcement is how new media will be handled with the likes of 360VR and mobile device apps and whether these will be run under the auspices of

It is also not clear in the announcement as to how the arrangement with mobile services provider Vodafone (and others) will operate. Vodafone backed Emirates Team NZ's coverage of the 2017 America's Cup with the innovative and very popular Dock-in and Dock-out shows which worked around draconian ACEA coverage rules and went out via social media - mainly on Facebook. Several attempts were made to shut down the ETNZ/Vodafone webcasts in Bermuda as it was claimed that these were in violation of of live broadcast TV agreements.

Vodafone works closely with the former America's Cup broadcaster SkyTV and the two have been in negotiations to combine their operations under various business models. Vodafone's main competitor in NZ, Spark has formed a relationship with TVNZ to secure several prime sports broadcast properties in recent months, outbidding the SkyTV, which is still the predominant sports broadcaster in New Zealand. Spark was not mentioned in the official media release.

Other channels are expected to be permitted to cover in the traditional way - up to the starting signal and once the race is finished. They are also able to run so-called "live" coverage by tweeting and other non-video or audio coverage on social media and alert/update systems when there is a significant event in the game.

TVNZ have committed to not running advertising during the live coverage. It is not known how long the races will be, or whether they will be longer than the 18 minutes target in Bermuda, meaning that ad-free coverage is not a significant revenue hit for the broadcaster. Given that the audience in New Zealand is likely to be close to a million viewers for the America's Cup it is expected that any advertising that is carried will carry a premium.

In a news item on TVNZ announcing the coverage, the state owned enterprise claimed it had 2,674,600 viewers for its last coverage of the America's Cup in 2013 - an event in which the Match extended for 19 days compared to the 2017 America's Cup for which TVNZ put the subscriber only audience of SkyTV at 983,000 New Zealanders. The 2017 Match lasted five days or nine races compared to 19 for the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco. Both were early morning broadcasts in New Zealand with the 2017 event being an earlier start. The population of New Zealand is 5 million and the TV NZ claim is that the event was watched by more than 50% of the New Zealand population.

Social media work arounds?

Given the undertaking by organisers for racing to be held close inshore, broadcasters who do not hold the territory rights may be able to provide a land-based broadcast - not possible previously due to the privilege flag control by organisers over water and airspace covering the racing area and authorised by local authority regulation.

The announcement makes no mention of the use of Youtube for live coverage. In the 2013 America's Cup Youtube coverage of the racing was provided live to territories not covered by signed broadcast rights, and then made live for all after the conclusion of racing. The territorial restrictions are easily overcome through the use of geo-location blocking software.

In a media release Grant Dalton, CEO of Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, says TVNZ’s involvement will maximise the number of New Zealanders that see the event. “It has been a fundamental principle of Emirates Team New Zealand and the Challenger of Record that the America’s Cup be accessible to as many Kiwis as possible since we won the trophy back almost one year ago. TVNZ have committed to provide coverage of this America’s Cup like no other, so we are delighted that the America’s Cup Match Presented by Prada and all preceding events will be broadcast live and free to air for all New Zealanders to watch and be part of.”

"Within Luna Rossa we are very happy about this agreement with New Zealand’s most prominent broadcaster, it is great news for all of us. We are looking forward to showing the potential of the new America’s Cup Class boats,” said Max Sirena, Skipper of Luna Rossa.

“As the Challenger of Record for the 36th America’s Cup, we are pleased to jointly sign this agreement with TVNZ and the Defender. It is the first broadcast rights agreement to be signed and exemplifies our commitment to ensuring wide reaching broadcast and digital coverage of the America’s Cup both in New Zealand and globally,” stated Laurent Esquier, CEO of COR 36.

Part of the Event Fee of $40million paid by the Labour-led government to America's Cup organisers will cover the costs of the Host TV broadcast, along with contributions from the Challenger and Defender which will be a separate function from the territorial rights broadcasters such as TVNZ.

The announcement of free to air broadcast of the America's Cup circumvents a controversial election policy of NZ First, one of the partners in the Labour-led coalition government which called for all major sports broadcasts to be broadcast live on a free to air platform.

In a radio interview this morning, Emirates Team NZ CEO Grant Dalton confirmed they were dealing with three other Challengers, as yet unannounced ahead of the close of entries on June 30, 2018.

He also rated the chances on the new British Challenger INEOS Team UK, with the infusion of the biggest single sponsorship in sailing and the acquisition of several key America's Cup professionals in management and design along with the existing sailing team.

For the full interview click here

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