Live rugby content will be made available free of charge throughout the Pacific Islands following a landmark announcement by New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key.
The initiative will see selected Super Rugby, The Rugby Championship, Tests and ITM Cup matches beamed into homes throughout the Pacific.
“The Pacific broadcasting project will see up to eight hours of high quality content a day made available to Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Niue, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea,” Mr Key says.
“A range of broadcasters, production houses, and rights holders have come together to support the initiative which will provide more viewing options for Pacific people.
“Given the Pacific’s love of sport we are particularly pleased that a number of sports rights holders, including SANZAR, have given their support to the project.
“As part of the project, New Zealand will also support Pacific broadcasters with additional technical assistance and training to help create more local content.
“This initiative will significantly increase the amount of content available to Pacific audiences, and will help showcase New Zealand productions in the region,” Mr Key added.
SANZAR Interim Chief Executive, Brendan Morris said, "We are thrilled to support the New Zealand government in its important initiative that will deliver our game via free-to-air television throughout the Pacific Islands for the first time in five years.
"We recognise the importance of rugby to the entire region and this partnership is a win for rugby fans throughout the Islands who will have more access than ever before to some of the best competitions and players in the world.
"Under the terms of the agreement, two Super Rugby matches, one Rugby Championship Test and one ITM Cup match will be beamed live free-to-air into the Pacific Islands each week of the respective competitions.
"This partnership has been made possible thanks to the support of Setanta Asia and we are grateful for their cooperation and commitment in helping make free-to-air rugby coverage a reality for fans throughout the Pacific Islands," Mr Morris concluded.
The following organisations have committed to providing content at no cost to participating Pacific countries: TVNZ, Prime, MediaWorks, Parliament TV, Mâori Television, SANZAR and Setanta Asia, Radio New Zealand, South Pacific Pictures, Showdown Productions, Lippy Pictures, Top Shelf Productions, Leftfield, Screentime Productions, North Reef Productions. NZ Cricket, Sky Television, NZ Rugby, and Basketball NZ.
The first broadcasts are expected to begin in early 2016. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will provide approximately $400,000 a year in additional funding to support the initiative.