Could having a match of the week streamed across Asia help put Hong Kong rugby on the map?
Growing online rugby viewing service Rugby Pass will soon begin covering Hong Kong Premiership games
In the coming weeks the naming rights sponsor of the Hong Kong Rugby Union Premiership – rugbypass.com – will begin covering one game a week live.
Rugby Pass services 23 countries throughout Asia and hopes to expand its reach into Europe as early as February of next year.
To have exposure on such a platform is certainly a great result for a league that has only had the odd big match streamed on the likes of YouTube and the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) website in the past.
But while on the surface everything is very positive, when stripped back the question still arises – just what sort of impact will it have on rugby in Hong Kong?
What sort of results can be expected both in the short term as far as people watching it and in the long term in the league becoming more recognised on a world scale and, as a result, stronger?
Of the 23 countries, Asian powerhouse Japan is not one of them, and as good as the concept sounds, it remains to be seen if anyone is going to watch it.
Rugby Pass launched in Hong Kong in February and has quickly cemented itself as Asia’s go-to online service for live rugby from around the world.
From a domestic viewpoint, it shows the southern hemisphere’s Super Rugby, the French Top 14, the English Aviva Premiership, the South Africa’s Currie Cup and New Zealand’s Mitre 10 Cup to name a few, while it has also covered the ongoing Rugby Championship and other test matches.
This plethora of options only raises further questions about where the HKRU Premiership will fit in to all of this.
On first thought, it does seem hard to see anyone without a vested interest in Hong Kong rugby going out of their way to tune in.
One thing the Premiership has in its favour is that its going to be the only weekly competition from Asia being televised, with the Japan Top League not shown on Rugby Pass, or seemingly anywhere else outside of Japan.
As far as direct clashes with other matches, Hong Kong’s 4.30pm slot that the majority of fixtures fall into should be relatively safe.
The HKRU is hopeful that ultimately the coverage will extend the reach of the league and eventually help to raise the standard of the Premiership by enticing quality players who like what they see.
“This is the opportunity to showcase that we do have a decent standard of rugby,” HKRU general manager of marketing and communications Rocky Chow said.
“Getting viewership throughout Asia is important and there are plenty of players throughout Asia that are looking at opportunities.
“At the moment, Japan is the only country that has significant exposure around what they do with their game.
“Getting us exposed both on an international side and a domestic side through Rugby Pass will give us an edge and only improve the standard in Hong Kong.”
The HKRU hopes to grow with Rugby Pass as it extends into Europe next year, and the reality is that as far as attracting quality players, getting into rugby strongholds like France and the United Kingdom is where the real opportunities lie.
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Rugby Pass says it already has over 400,000 unique users and averages around 35,000 streams each weekend.
Not yet astronomical numbers by any stretch and it will obviously be a slow burn for the HKRU, but it is exciting times for the union.
Having the Premiership beamed across Asia can only be a positive, and hopefully the fact that a platform of the magnitude of Rugby Pass is taking Hong Kong rugby seriously means that others the world over will too.
While there are plenty of questions to be answered moving forward, it seems safe to say the union can sleep easy in the knowledge that this may well be a partnership in which they genuinely have nothing to lose.