Sports, TV And New Zealanders

Live televised sporting events are an important part of cultural citizenship. Rachel Peters, AUT Communication Studies PhD fellow, argues that the loss of sports coverage on New Zealand’s free-to-air TV channels, which focus on the need to capture and monetize audience attention, is leading to a fragmented , individualized experience, and obliterated a key tenet of cultural citizenship: public access to live-brokered sporting events.

Peter’s doctoral thesis TV Sports Coverage in New Zealand: Between Global Capitalism and Cultural Citizenship is the first political-economic study of media sports in New Zealand in light of the global transition from broadcasting to streaming. She examines telesport from a historical, political, economic and sociocultural perspective, as well as a selection of sporting controversies since 1996. Her thesis traces the tensions between global capitalism and cultural citizenship and the commercialization of telesport by examining the business practices of New Zealand’s oldest pay- TV company Sky TV.

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“While sport is now a global business that appeals to the elite barons of global wealth, it also represents longstanding, emotional ties to clubs, communities, regions and nations. Sports team and sports rights owners are constantly looking for ways to maximize their investment returns, but a democratic and meritocratic ideal is at stake. Many fans and citizens believe that sport should always be accessible to play and to watch.

“The change in New Zealand’s population has gone hand in hand with the diversification of both the range of sports available and the methods available to watch them. The conversation has shifted beyond access to free-to-air rugby union matches as central to New Zealand culture to an environment where viewers expect access to a wider range of sports to suit their viewing habits.

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“With New Zealand hosting the Rugby World Cup in October 2022 and co-hosting the Soccer World Cup with Australia in 2023, the role of live televised sports as a cornerstone of cultural citizenship will once again be in the spotlight. How will Sky Sports and streaming companies respond to the growing demand for a wider range of sports, and can we expect there to be demand for women’s sports to be televised in the same way?

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Peter’s future research aims to quantitatively document the changing ways in which people in New Zealand consume sport, to map the habits of sport-watching in different New Zealand populations, and to determine what consequences these habits have on their identities as fans.

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