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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Universal Sports Executives Discuss World Cup Coverage

The World Cup is just a day away and for folks in the U.S. the way to watch the tournament is through Universal Sports (note of disclosure: Universal Sports is advertising on our site). The network is offering options on their normal TV service, a digital package, and a package that can be purchased through your provider. We sat down with Senior Vice President of Production Dean Walker and Senior Vice President of Digital Media and Strategic Partnerships Ed Derse to talk about the network's coverage of the tournament.

TIAR: Universal Sports is covering the entire World Cup. How important is rugby to Universal Sports?

DW: This year’s Rugby World Cup is a premier event for our network. As you know, rugby is the fastest growing team sport in the U.S. And as the popular sport of football being derived from rugby there are a lot of common elements between the two sports which creates more opportunities for the sport to grow further. Once people sit down and watch a match they are going to see a lot of similarities that are appealing to the American sports fans. All of this is reinforced by the reintroduction of rugby to the Olympics with 7s being added to the program in 2016. Even though it is 7s instead of 15s in the Olympics, it’s still going to raise awareness for rugby across the board. It’s big and getting bigger!

Take the jump to read more.

TIAR: The final is set to be on NBC. Does that represent a larger interest in the sport in America in the eyes of Universal Sports/NBC?

DW: The Rugby World Cup is one of the most-watched sporting events in the entire world with more than 4 billion viewers expected to tune in to the 2015 edition. This year’s event is the second time that Universal Sports and NBC have broadcast matches in the United States. Airing the finals live will be a great platform to showcase rugby in America as the sport continues to grow.

TIAR:  How will the digital subscription work? Will fans be able to watch archived matches?

ED: The new WatchRWC2015 platform offers viewers the ability to live stream all 48 Rugby World Cup matches in HD via the web on desktop, mobile and other connected TV devices from a single online destination. A digital package will provide access to all 48 matches live and on-demand through November 30, 2015. All purchases are made on a secure website, which can be reviewed under account settings. The process to buy and watch is consumer friendly and easy to navigate.

First, you must set up an account and verify your email address before making any purchases. To do this, go to UniversalSports.com/WatchRugby and click “online”, or visit https://rwc2015ppv.com/ directly, then click on “tournament Package” to create an account. Once you’ve verified your email address, purchasing the package and watching a match is a 3-step process.

1.       Select “Tournament Package”
2.       Enter payment information
3.       Watch!

To watch additional matches, simply log on to the site and select the match you wish to view. Your login will also work on iOS and Android tablet apps and on the WatchRWC2015 Roku channel. Matches will be available for viewing 15 minutes before the listed kickoff times.

TIAR: Some fans have mentioned the price of the streaming package? Do you feel it's too high? How did Universal Sports arrive at that price?

ED: We believe our Rugby World Cup digital PPV package provides a good value for consumers. Spread over 48 matches, the package costs just $4.17 per match. In addition, consumers now have greater access and the ability to watch matches on a variety of platforms including mobile, tablet and connected TV devices.

TIAR: What are some extra features fans can expect during the World Cup?

DW: Leading up to the Rugby World Cup, we have produced an animated series called “Rugby Essentials” that teaches the game of rugby in a fun and irreverent way.  We have also produced a series of features in conjunction with VisitBritain that highlight the different venues around Britain that the Rugby World Cup will be held.  Host Nick Gismondi travels the British countryside with the “fastest man in rugby” Carlin Isles to learn more about the land in which rugby was born. These videos along with news and highlights can be found on UniversalSports.com.

We are also bringing a massive depth of rugby knowledge to the American audience. Brian Hightower, former USA Eagles player and USA Sevens Captain, will be the primary match analyst for the Rugby World Cup.  Bill Seward will be handling all play-by-play duties and is recognized throughout the world as the American voice of rugby.  Additionally, we will be bringing in Fijian rugby legend Waisale Serevi, along with former USA Eagles captain Dan Lyle for in-depth analysis during the knock-out round.

TIAR: What plans does Universal Sports have for rugby in the future?

DW: In addition to this year’s Rugby World Cup, fans can look forward to international friendlies on our network, such as Barbarians matches, as well as the 2015-16 Sevens World series which kicks off December 4-5 in Dubai.

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