Super Rugby Pacific is set to grow the game in the Pacific, but the American part of the ocean likely won’t see it.
The latest iteration of Super Rugby has announced a deal with FloRugby to distribute live and on demand content in the USA. FloRugby also holds the rights to Eagles test matches. The platform has received significant amounts of criticism, including from this very website, for its $30/month or $150/year price point. For the vast majority of American rugby fans, that’s well beyond the means for a service that only provides one thing.
Compare that with Peacock, which provides coverage of the English Premiership, the European Champions and Challenge Cups, and the Six Nations, along with the World Rugby Sevens Series, Lions Tours, and 2023 Rugby World Cup. That costs $5/month.
Heck, The Rugby Network is free.
The move isn’t good for American fans that want to watch Super Rugby, but it says a lot about how SANZAAR views the American market.
Super Rugby was available through ESPN+ as recently as 2020. At that time, the MLR was streaming through the same platform. MLR Commissioner Killebrew has mentioned it being a costly experience for the league. In all likelihood, Super Rugby had a similar experience. There just isn’t enough of an American fan base for rugby to drive subscriptions when ESPN has made no effort to promote the game.
If super Rugby did its due diligence, they surely reached out to Peacock. And the answer was likely ‘pass’. NBCUniversal has long seen rugby as a potential sequel to its wild success with the Premier League. Those same players flow into the Six Nations and European Cups. While a big issue with growing European rugby is the success of the Premier League, (and the two games similar time slots,) adding Super Rugby coverage that largely occurs overnight in the USA wouldn’t be a massive value add. Its probably worth more than nothing, but it can’t be anywhere near what SANZAAR would need.
FloRugby was likely the best deal. The quality of production is low, the ad quality is pathetic, but they do have legitimate subscription revenue. If that deal would be tied to actual viewership, it could genuinely be the best they could do.
That’s not to criticize Super Rugby. If its true, it should be applauded.
Rugby is a game constantly in need of funding. The current situation in Wales is the flavor of the month, but every single Tier 2 and Tier 3 nation needs more money. If that means limiting exposure to maximize profitability, so be it. Its those same profits that allow New Zealand and Australian players to receive strong salaries. Some of those funds are being used to launch the women’s Super Rugby competition this year. The same goes for the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika Super Rugby franchises that will provide a development pathway for Pacific Island nations players.
From afar, I’ll tip my hat. I just won’t be watching any of it unfold.