Sky has dumped its own channel, Prime, and done a deal with TVNZ to provide free-to-air coverage of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, in 2020.

Under the partnership, Sky will stream and broadcast all events in Tokyo across 12 HD channels and its streaming platforms. TVNZ 1 will have rights to 12 hours of free-to-air coverage throughout each afternoon and evening.

TVNZ will interrupt its coverage to go to the 6pm news and Seven Sharp.

Martin Stewart, CEO of Sky, said:  “We were delighted to secure the rights for Tokyo 2020, and are pleased to now be bringing TVNZ on board as our free-to-air partner. The Olympic Games will involve over 300 events across 33 sports, and New Zealanders will be spoiled for choice with more live action and content than ever before.

“Those wanting free coverage will be able to access an extensive range of sports on TVNZ 1, including many of the key events featuring our New Zealand athletes. The TVNZ service will include live streaming on TVNZ On Demand.”

The decision will be a severe blow to Prime. Sky has obviously lost confidence in the channels ability to reach the free-to-air audience and monetarise it sufficiently.

Stewart tried to soften the blow by describing the deal as a one off special event.

 “We have a strong record of delivering free-to-air sport to New Zealanders via Prime, including Rio 2016. We will continue to offer a range of other sport and entertainment experiences free to all New Zealanders on Prime. The Olympics is one of those special events that can attract the attention of the whole country, and this partnership with TVNZ will enable us to draw on the promotional power of our collective platforms to encourage viewership of Tokyo 2020 by the widest range of New Zealanders.

“Local partnerships are a key part of Sky’s strategy to have our content in the homes and hands of every New Zealander, and to make the best possible use of all of the content rights that we hold.”

The deal is another big win for TVNZ CEO, Kevin Kenrick. Having partnered Spark in production and broadcasting this years Rugby World Cup in Japan, Kenrick has now landed next year’s big sporting event.

Like the Spark deal, he is likely to have got favourable terms from Sky.  MediaWorks decision to put its TV arm on the market made this a one horse race for TVNZ.

Kenrick is quoted in SKY’s media release this morning.

“TVNZ is thrilled to be Sky’s free-to-air partner for Tokyo 2020. Major event sport continues to resonate with kiwi audiences and we are committed to working together to ensure the greatest number of New Zealanders enjoy watching this iconic event across both TVNZ and Sky.”

Martin Stewart expected the partnership between SKY and TVNZ would result in record viewing levels.

 “2.8 million New Zealanders engaged with the Olympic Games Rio 2016 on Sky and Prime. Our shared goal with TVNZ is to increase that viewership even further, and surround New Zealand with Tokyo 2020. We look forward to partnering with TVNZ and to delivering a superb Olympic Games experience next July.”

Specific details of the coverage will be announced closer to the time.

Tokyo 2020 runs from 24 July to 9 August 2020.

Mark Jennings is co-editor of Newsroom.

Leave a comment