Sky New Zealand’s RugbyPass.com has launched a free streaming and digital content network, The Rugby Network, in partnership with Major League Rugby (MLR) ahead of the 2021 MLR season, which kicks off March 20. The Rugby Network, the first of its kind in North America, will include live streaming of select Major League Rugby matches, highlights, archives and behind-the-scenes content, along with a library of documentaries, classic games, international coverage and new weekly magazine shows.
“We share a joint vision with the MLR to create a community of rugby fans and remove the hurdles they face across North America by providing them with the best news, highlights, podcasts, live matches and live blog feeds,” said Neil Martin, Global CEO at RugbyPass. “The Rugby Network will be an interconnected network of digital properties that will drive both interest and engagement with rugby. Our goal is to create an inclusive network with MLR that will bring together and expand North America’s rugby community and also serve international rugby fans.”
“The Rugby Network will allow existing rugby fans to access high-quality content for free as well as generate awareness of the sport to create the next generation of fans,” said George Killebrew, Major League Rugby Commissioner. “The Rugby Network will be an exciting development for MLR and North American rugby as a whole. We are looking forward to working with RugbyPass to launch this platform that will be the definitive home for rugby fans across North America, as well as internationally.”
To support the growth of rugby across the United States and Canada, RugbyPass is spearheading the creation of a centralised digital platform with the MLR teams and players as the heart of the network. The livestream of matches, and the future expansion to all over-the-top devices, will be made possible through ViewLift’s platform, a leading end-to-end digital solutions partner to sports leagues and media companies around the world.
In addition to MLR live games, highlights and archives, The Rugby Network will feature original video and editorial content from some of North America’s leading rugby journalists and players, including Martin Pengelly, Blaine Scully, Matt McCarthy, Pat Clifton, Chris Robshaw, Ben Foden, Mike Petri and more to be announced.
It is expected that rugby’s popularity in North America will grow over the coming years with younger audiences openly seeking “non-traditional” sports content. Research indicated that 56 percent of Millennial and Gen-Z sports fans in North America believe that non-traditional sports are more relevant to their generation. With 60 percent of teens watching less television than they did five years ago, The Rugby Network will cater to younger demographics as well as existing fans reaching across OTT and social media platforms.
An estimated 1.3 million people participate in rugby in North America, with a further 8.8 million active fans – a number set to increase fourfold over the next decade. It’s also expected that bids will be made to host the Rugby World Cup very soon.
RugbyPass.com currently utilises ViewLift, a full-service global digital content distribution platform empowering media companies, sports leagues and teams, and others to monetise their content through native branded apps on major OTT devices including web, mobile, TV-connected devices, Smart TVs and gaming consoles.