Japan’s Rugby World Cup exit breaks broadcast records once more

Japan bowed out of its Rugby World Cup yesterday (Sunday) by setting yet more broadcast records, while New Zealand telco Spark said its under-fire service worked efficiently throughout quarter-final weekend.

The Kyodo news agency, citing figures from ratings tracker Video Research, said public-service broadcaster NHK’s coverage of the host nation’s 26-3 defeat to South Africa pulled in an average share of 41.6 per cent in the Kanto greater Tokyo area, reaching a peak of 49.1 per cent.

In the Kansai region, which includes Osaka and its surrounding area, the rating peaked at 47.9 per cent, while the average figure was 41.4 per cent. The average ratings in the Kanto region have steadily risen throughout the tournament as Japan surpassed expectations by advancing to the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time.

The opening day win over Russia drew an average rating of 18.3 per cent, increasing again for the shock win over Ireland and hitting 32.8 per cent for the match against Samoa. Commercial terrestrial network Nippon TV attracted an average share of 39.2 per cent in the Kanto greater Tokyo area, and a record peak of 53.7 per cent, for the victory over Scotland in the final group stage game on October 13.

NHK, Nippon TV and pay-TV broadcaster J Sports share the 2019 Rugby World Cup broadcast rights in Japan, which represents the third most lucrative broadcast market for this year’s tournament behind France and the UK.

Commercial broadcaster TF1 holds the 2019 tournament rights in France and yesterday recorded its highest ratings so far as the national team suffered a dramatic 20-19 defeat against Wales. TF1 drew an average viewership of 6.7 million, peaking at eight million, for a share of 63 per cent.

Meanwhile, World Rugby’s broadcast partner in New Zealand, Spark, has claimed its coverage of the quarter finals was successful, despite initial reports of problems for Saturday’s two games. Ahead of the tournament’s first knockout matches, Spark expressed confidence in the stability of its OTT platform, but said coverage would immediately switch to public-service broadcaster TVNZ should issues arise.

New Zealand’s emphatic 46-14 win over Ireland on Saturday was the biggest test of Spark’s infrastructure since the All Blacks’ opening 2019 World Cup game against South Africa on September 20. That game saw Spark’s service beset by technical problems, prompting an angry response from rugby fans.

Spark suffered technical problems that interrupted viewing for several thousand households. As a contingency, the platform simulcast the second half of that match, and the three World Cup matches played on September 21, on TVNZ’s Duke free-to-air television channel.

A Spark spokesperson today (Monday) told the Stuff.co.nz website that there were “no technical or capacity issues from our end”. The spokesperson added: “There was a very small percentage of customers with individual issues relating to their broadband connection, in-home set up or devices.”

Stuff said some fans took to social media on Saturday complaining of buffering, stuttering, freezing and out-of-sync streams. “The parts of the streaming journey that we are responsible for are working well, but that’s not to say that there aren’t a small minority of people having a poor experience,” a Spark Sport spokesperson said in response to the issues reported on Saturday night.