Kickoff Rant

20 Nations Compete for Rugby's Biggest Prize

20 Nations Compete for Rugby’s Biggest Prize

Kickoff Time! The fall sports schedule is underway and there is something for most any sports fan.

The Champions League is underway in the world of soccer (aka football), American football has begun both the college and professional games, and Rugby World Cup is just days away.

Of the big three fall sports you can find them on your television set with relative ease with the exception of rugby.

Rugby is the game that is foreign to most Americans despite the fact that American football had derived from rugby. Television executives in the USA are quite happy to keep Americans unaware of the sport. American football has been molded into the perfect broadcast revenue machine. The average NFL football game features less than 12 minutes of actual game time and nearly one hour of ad time. If you are an aficionado of Lite Beer or erectile disfunction medication ads you will be as equally entertained as the most fervent football fan.

It’s no wonder that one of the fastest growing trends among fans to to DVR the game and then fast-forward through all of the adverts and standing around time that is the typical NFL game. This shrinks the average three hour and 12 minute commitment considerably. You can easily start watching the recorded game with the fast-forward method two and a half hours after kickoff and catch the live ending of the game.

Rugby has quite a different format. There are no breaks – just game. Rugby consists of two 40-minute halves with a 10 minute halftime break. You can expect about 15 minutes total of stoppage time for official review of a score (if the referee request the review), injury, or for cards issued by the referee. The rugby match, with 80 minutes of game clock as compared to 60 minutes for American football, can be consumed in under two hours.

Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup

NBC Keeping Rugby World Cup from American Audience

NBC has purchased the rights to air the 2015 Rugby World Cup (RWC) in the USA as they did with the 2011 RWC. It would be fair to say that NBC has bought the rights in order to refuse the airing of the games (48 in total). Getting Americans familiar and hooked on rugby is bad business for American TV executives. Remember, they like the 12 minutes of game with an hour of ads – these ad spots sell for millions. The networks know that if you can easily watch rugby that it won’t be long before they have defectors on their hands.

If you have a premium sports package with your cable or satellite service you may have the NBC Universal Sport channel you will have access to six games: the opening match with host England taking on Fiji, the two semi-final matches, and all of the USA Rugby four pool matches. The NBC network will air the final on October 31st.

The other 41 matches not shown on one of NBC’s networks will be available to home viewers via a live-stream pay-for-view. The cost per game is rather steep, nearly $30, but the entire RWC package is a pretty good deal at $200. Yes, they got $200 from me. You can also find the matches shown at bars that have purchased the rights to show the games. (Click here to see if a bar near you offers the games.)

The realities of watching one of the world’s greatest sporting events on pay-for-view begs this question to NFL fans. Would you pay $200 a season to watch your team play commercial free games? I suspect that many of you would. This of course would not resolve the issues of dead time between plays, players shuffling in and out of the games, constant official reviews, and so on. Perhaps it’s time to try rugby?

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