TVNZ announce Rugby World Cup coverage details

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By John Matheson for TVNZ:

The juggernaut that is TVNZ will throw all of its resources behind its Rugby World Cup coverage.

The state broadcaster announced its commentary, presenting and news team today and they are clearly nicely placed to win the ratings war which is about to explode around the tournament.

With Sky Television, Maori Television and TV3 all having rights to the tournament the battle for the television audience will come down to points of difference.

Today’s announcements included:

– The acquisition of All Blacks great Jeff Wilson as the broadcaster’s expert comments man.
– The announcement of one-time New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year Andrew Saville in the coveted role of lead commentator.
– The re-signing of the rating winning FIFA World Cup presenter Martin Devlin to front One’s Rugby World Cup coverage
– Plans for Rugby World Cup 2011 – Tonight – a new panel based show which will air at 10.45pm on each Rugby World Cup match night.

“We needed to approach the Rugby World Cup with a fresh presentation,” TVNZ’s General Manager of Sport, Murray Needham said.

“With so many broadcasters all showcasing the tournament it was important to establish a point of difference.

“And in the end, for us, that point of difference will come down to the talent involved in and around the coverage for the duration of the tournament.

“With all these key people on board around the actual live match coverage and with the exceptional internal talent also committed to contributing to the overall TVNZ presentation I am anticipating that we will deliver an event which will be both informative and entertaining.”

A part from the match day component – which will be bolstered by a pool of talent including a number of former All Blacks, coaches and overseas stars – the strength of TVNZ’s coverage will be the man-power and expertise offered up by its news and current affairs team.

Thanks to shows like Breakfast, Good Morning and Close Up – as well as its four weekday news broadcasts – it’s difficult to see how any other entity will be able to compete with TVNZ’s wall-to-wall coverage.

“We’ve been planning for this for over 12 months,” TVNZ’s head of news, current affairs and sport Anthony Flannery said.

“The key to our success is that we are treating the Rugby World Cup in the way it should be treated – not just as a sports event but as the biggest sporting event in the world this year.

“And, of course, it transcends sport which is why having the ability to utilise our news and current affairs staffers around the country will be so valuable.

“It really is going to be case of ‘all hands on the pump’.

”Make no mistake about this – TVNZ will throw the weight of its news and current affairs departments behind the tournament.”

Simon Dallow – the multiple award winning host of One News – will be a regular guest on Rugby World Cup 2011- Tonight which will be hosted by Devlin and he’s excited by the ground work put in by TVNZ’s executives.

“When New Zealand bid for the tournament they talked about a stadium of four million people,” he said. “Well, with the resources that TVNZ has, we will be able to take the Rugby World Cup to those four million. It’s hugely exciting for everyone involved.

“And when you look at the people involved – the likes of Jeff Wilson, Martin Devlin and Andrew Saville along with many of the country’s best news and current affairs journalists TVNZ will be in a position to present rugby in a new light rather than the staid and predictable way we have had to become accustomed to.”

Devlin, said Flannery, was the obvious choice to host TVNZ’s coverage even though he is not a permanent staffer.

“Martin Devlin did an outstanding job when he presented the FIFA World Cup for us last year,” Flannery said.

“He projected the passion and energy of that event and he will absolutely be in his element for this event.

“He’s the perfect host for Rugby World Cup 2011 – Tonight as well. That show will be a lot more than just the normal talking heads panel show. We have some nice innovations planned for it.”

The ‘front window’ of the TVNZ’s coverage though will of course be their coverage of the All Blacks’ tests.

The partnership of Saville and Wilson will rival any of duos on New Zealand’s airwaves.

“It was an easy decision to go with Andrew Saville as the commentator,” Needham said.

“He has had a lot of experience commentating on radio and he’s made the transition to television through commentary on the Sevens with ease.

“He’s also still going to be presenting our sports news and covering the All Blacks though out the tournament so that will arm him with a mountain of relevant information that he can bring to his commentaries.

“And clearly having Jeff Wilson alongside him will be a real treat.

“Jeff has huge credibility and is widely respected by everyone involved in the game. He’s going to be a real asset for us.”

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