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Sky New Zealand is expected to lose rights to the Rugby World Cup after the pay-television broadcaster today (Wednesday) announced that it is not the preferred bidder for the contract to the 2019 tournament in Japan.

Sky held the rights to the 2015 World Cup in England, which New Zealand won. However, it said in a statement today: “We have been informed that negotiations are underway with the preferred party, and our bid remains in play should those negotiations fail.”

The New Zealand Herald newspaper said that public-service broadcaster TVNZ and telco Spark have made a joint bid for the rights and are the preferred bidder. If successful with their offer, it is expected that Spark would stream matches over the internet, while TVNZ would provide free-to-air television coverage.

Sky added: “Sport broadcasting is a competitive business, and while we are disappointed not to be the preferred bidder, it’s an economic reality that we can’t have every match of every sport that New Zealanders like to watch.

“While the Rugby World Cup is great content and we put forward a strong bid for it, it is an incredibly expensive event that plays once every four years for six weeks.”

Rugby World Cup rights are sold by the IMG Media agency on behalf of Rugby World Cup Ltd, and are unrelated to the Sanzaar rights held by the umbrella body of rugby union’s national associations in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

Sky has the Sanzaar rights through to 2020, including All Blacks tests, Super Rugby and the Mitre 10 Cup.