The 2007 edition of the Rugby World Cup started today in Paris with France bowing to slight underdogs Argentina in a stunning upset.
In Canada we’ve always had pretty good access to games on television in the past. I think every game in every World Cup has been shown on one of the sports networks over the years. But not this year. In 2007, in Quebec, you cannot get RWC 2007 coverage at home via cable, analog or digital.
The rights holders are a company that no one here ever heard of before a few months ago called Setanta Sports, which in turn Videotron, my local cable provider, doesn’t carry. I could get it through Bell ExpressVu, except that would mean a) installing a stupid mini dish and b) taking a whopping package of channels I don’t want – and THEN buying Setanta as an additional pay channel, or the RWC as a PPV option. Not bloody likely.
It looks like my only real option – and it’s a pretty crappy option, if you ask me, is to buy games that will be streamed over the internet – in the tiny screen – for US$10 a shot. Today I went down to my friendly neighbourhood sports bar – Champs, on St-Laurent – and they’re charging $10 a head per game as well… and the guy who I spoke to said that for some games they might charge $20! The kicker? It’s not the bar who’s collecting – Setanta is charging the cover themselves!
So, if you’re a rugby fan in Canada, things pretty much suck right now, and Setanta – and the International Rugby Board, which sold them the bloody license – seem squarely to blame. The rights for such an important competition should be limited to established broadcasters with a national footprint, not fly-by-night companies who have no interest in promoting a sport in a developing country but trying to juice it for everything it’s worth, notwithstanding the long term health of the game.