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RugbyPass launches subscription journalism product

Rugby union digital media platform RugbyPass has launched a new subscription service, The XV, offering premium journalism, including interviews and long-read features, with podcasts and video content to be added in future.

The service will be advertising-free and will publish 30 to 40 pieces of content per month, from a team of 20 writers globally including journalists, pundits, coaches, data analysts and players. It will be available around the world, priced between $3 and $5 per month in most markets.

The company also announced it is launching a podcast aimed at the British and Irish markets in October, called Offload, that will be hosted by international players including Dylan Hartley, Jamie Roberts, Simon Zebo and Ryan Wilson.

Announcing The XV, RugbyPass CEO Neil Martin said, “Our intellectual property comes from journalists who know their patch intimately. We have writers on the ground, from all over the world, following the biggest stories and getting access with the greatest players. The insight we have will shine through in our journalism.”

RugbyPass operates a string of rugby union websites around the world, including RugbyDump, RugbyOnslaught and Rugby365, as well as a a subscription OTT video service in Asia and Central Europe. The video service has rights for a host of rugby properties, mostly showing major properties outside their core markets. The XV product means the company now has a subscription product in rugby’s core markets, including the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

RugbyPass’s video rights portfolio includes the Six Nations, The Rugby Championship, July and November international tests, Super Rugby AO and AU, the European Champions Cup, the English Premiership, the Pro14, the Premiership Cup, New Zealand’s Mitre10 Cup, and South Africa’s Currie Cup.

RugbyPass was acquired by pay-television broadcaster Sky New Zealand last year. In the press release announcing The XV, Martin said, “Sky Sports NZ acquired RugbyPass because they believed in our long-term vision for the development of the game, and as part of that ambitious strategy comes the unveiling of our new subscription product, The XV.”

He said The XV aligns with some important trends in digital media. “Having an ad-free environment will become increasingly more prevalent to audiences who want to follow their passions without clutter. The clean, intuitive user-experiences you get through OTT products like Netflix, Disney Plus and Now TV are going to be a prerequisite in other areas of their digital consumption and that’s what we are building. We see micro-subscription products hitting the market with increasing frequency.”

Martin added that subscription products were becoming increasingly important for publishers, who were being forced to be more nimble than ever and consider new products during the business downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Being able to make real revenue from a subscription product was always important to us. Building the right products with the right type of monetisation models is down to timing and now is the right time to do that. The XV is an example of that. It doesn’t feel rushed, it’s more a natural cadence of the business. We haven’t compromised in any way and have more products in the pipeline that we’ll announce in due course.”

The XV will be priced at £3.99 ($5.17/€4.38) per month and £24.99 per year in the UK; €3.99 ($4.71) and €24.99 in Europe; NZ$4.99 ($3.35/€2.84) and NZ$29.99 in New Zealand; A$4.99 ($3.64/€3.08) and A$29.99 in Australia; R50 ($3.07/€2.60) and R300 in South Africa; and $3.99 (€3.38) and $24.99 in the rest of the world.