Home' The Wellingtonian : October 20th 2011 Contents 23
THE WELLINGTONIAN, OCTOBER 20, 2011
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HUTT CITY SHOPPING SPREE
Maori television wins off-field
All Black bond: Piri Weepu, left, and Zac Guildford contemplate New
Zealand's comprehensive defeat of Australia in the World Cup semifinals.
Photo: DEAN PEMBERTON
Asecond Rugby World Cup
has been playing out
behind the scenes in New
Zealand, and it's been just as tor-
rid as the one that has so
engrossed us since September 9.
Rugby fans have been able to
watch key World Cup matches live
on no less than five New Zealand
channels -- TV One, TV3, Maori
(English version), Maori (Maori
language version) and Sky.
The battle for viewers has been
TV One began sensationally,
drawing 1.015 million viewers for
the first match, New Zealand
against Tonga. This immediately
followed the opening ceremony,
also a TV One triumph.
For that first match Sky had an
audience of 442,000 and Maori
As the tournament has
progressed, however, the big
mover has been Maori Television.
By the quarterfinals, Maori
Television was the most popular of
the free-to-air channels. At times
its audience was virtually the
combined viewership of TV One
For the New Zealand v
Argentina quarter-final, Maori
Television drew 501,000, behind
Sky (628,000), but well ahead of
TV One (420,000) and TV3
(236,000). It has continued to rate
Generally Maori Television's
audience is relatively small, so
these figures are startling.
Sky is the most popular rugby
channel. Its main commentators
are Grant Nisbett and Tony John-
son, supported by the likes of
Grant Fox, Justin Marshall and
They're like old friends, after all
the Super 15 and Tri-Nations
broadcasts, and we're comfortable
with them. They are consistently
good, and Fox is a class apart as
The Sky viewing figures are
impressive, especially considering
the potential audience is only
about 60 per cent of that of free-to-
TV One has Andrew Saville as a
commentator and Jeff Wilson and
Taine Randell as experts.
TV3's choices have been
Hamish McKay, plus Richard Loe
and Andrew Mehrtens.
Neither channel has quite
captured the public imagination.
Maori Television has used Te
Arahi Maipi as its main caller,
though sometimes Keith Quinn
has filled the role.
The channel has called on what
it has termed its Barbarians XV''
as experts. These have included
Peter FitzSimons (superb), Pat
Lam (a revelation), Wayne
Shelford and Norm Hewitt.
Julian Wilcox has led the Maori
Maori Television planned its
campaign as efficiently as did the
heavyweights on the field.
It went with a low-key, chattier
approach. Quinn, for example,
while still providing a wealth of
information -- his trademark -- has
been noticeably more relaxed.
The plan has worked well.
Viewers have appreciated the less
Maori Television has also built
its rugby following. It will cover 16
World Cup games live (and all 48
in full), compared to nine by TV
One and TV 3 (which have pro-
vided just highlights of many of
For New Zealand v Japan, Aust-
ralia v Ireland, and New Zealand
v Canada, Maori Television even
When Maori Television
announced it would cover the
World Cup, many scoffed. Instead
the channel has introduced a
whole new breed of television
viewer to rugby, and has turned
conventional rugby broadcasting
thinking on its head.
With no disrespect to Sky,
which has been professional and
efficient, Maori Television has
provided the flair and is my World
A stadium of four million
Anyone who can remember the
1997 film Fever Pitch, starring
Colin Firth, would have experi-
enced a sense of deja vu this week.
In Fever Pitch Firth plays an
Arsenal-mad football fan and
gradually all the people in his life,
from his girlfriend, to flatmates,
family and workmates, get caught
up in his obsession.
Even people who didn't follow
football at all begin following
Arsenal, especially as the season
headed towards a thrilling climax.
So it has been in New Zealand
during the World Cup, and
especially this week.
It is extremely difficult to find
people who didn't watch New
Zealand's semifinal demolition of
Nearly 61,000 of them were at
Eden Park. The best part of two
million watched on television,
either at home or in pubs, and
hundreds of thousands more
packed out the FanZones in the
People who wouldn't know a
tighthead prop from a blindside
flanker offered confident opinions
about Piri Weepu's kicking, Aaron
Cruden's maturity, Israel Dagg's
speed, Jerome Kaino's tackling
and Brad Thorn's strength. Richie
McCaw is suddenly our Richie''.
It's often said that retail shop-
ping increases when the All
Blacks are doing well. In that
case, the stores will have enjoyed
a bonanza this week.
It's been 16 years since the All
Blacks last made a World Cup
final (which is staggering) and 24
since they recorded their only
World Cup tournament victory.
The ghosts of the past are about
to be exorcised. Only the French
remain between the All Blacks
and World Cup glory.
The French are not to be
trusted, but in truth they are not
a good team and the All Blacks
should win by 20 or more points.
What a party that will be.
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