Sky New Zealand (NZ), the prominent pay-TV operator, has announced it will broadcast 12 matches from the upcoming men’s Rugby World Cup free-to-air (FTA).

The broadcaster said its FTA Prime linear channel will provide live simulcast coverage of six matches, which will include a semi-final, the third-place playoff, and the final, while another six matches will be shown delayed.

All 48 matches during the tournament in France will be broadcast live across its Sky Sport pay-TV channels during the tournament, which runs from September 8 to October 28.

Sky’s chief media and data officer Lauren Quaintance said: “Fan interest in the Rugby World Cup 2023 is huge. With a number of teams serious contenders to take out the winning title, Sky and Prime coverage will be appointment viewing for Kiwi fans.

“Half our population have said they are interested in watching the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Audience and engagement prospects like this are rare, we’re looking forward to sharing some unique opportunities with our clients.”

Sky NZ holds exclusive rights in the country to World Rugby competitions from 2023 to 2029 as part of a deal struck last year. The agreement includes a commitment to broadcast some matches FTA.

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By GlobalData

Sky NZ succeeds telecoms operator Spark, which held rights in the country to the last men’s Rugby World Cup in 2019. All matches were aired on its Spark Sport streaming platform, with some matches sublicensed to public broadcaster TVNZ.

However, Spark’s coverage of New Zealand’s opening match of the tournament suffered technical issues, forcing the broadcaster to simulcast the second half of the match on TVNZ’s channels. Another three matches were then simulcast on the FTA channel while the issues continued.

Before Spark, Sky NZ held the rights to the 2011 and 2015 editions of the tournament, which were both won by the New Zealand All-Blacks.

Domestic rights to this year’s World Cup were secured by French commercial broadcaster TF1 in 2021. TF1 is set to show 20 games from the tournament after sublicensing 10 to France TV and a further 18 to fellow commercial broadcaster M6.

Image: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images