Discovery Buys Stake in Online Video Site RugbyPass

Aviva rugby - H 2012

The deal for the platform, which targets 23 Asian markets, fits in with Discovery's continued push into OTT offerings to serve superfans.

Discovery Communications said Wednesday it has agreed to acquire a minority stake in RugbyPass, a digital content platform that reaches rugby fans across 23 Asian markets by offering rugby competitions, live or on demand, from any device.

Financial details weren't disclosed. The deal fits in with Discovery's continued push into OTT offerings to serve superfans.

Last year, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific unit acquired Setanta Sports Asia, a sports channel specializing in rugby. "To further boost the RugbyPass offering to fans, select content from Discovery-owned Setanta Sports Asia will be immediately available to all RugbyPass subscribers," the companies said Wednesday.

Launched in Asia in February this year by Coliseum Sports Media (CSM), RugbyPass offers fans a chance to watch rugby action from top competitions, including games from Super Rugby, England's Aviva Premiership, the European Champions Cup and British Lions Tour in New Zealand in 2017.

The service costs $14.99 per month and is available in such countries as China, Hong Kong, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and others. 

Said Arthur Bastings, president and managing director of Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific: "In partnership with CSM, our investment in RugbyPass will provide sports fans with greater access to the world's best rugby competitions, making content that they love available on more screens, when and wherever they choose to watch it."

CSM CEO Tim Martin said: "RugbyPass is a successful product with an increasingly strong and loyal following, and now with Discovery's added resources and expertise, we are excited to not only expand the sports content available on the site through Setanta but also invest in further growth."

The launch of RugbyPass in Asia has come at a time of growing interest in the sport in the region. World Rugby has struck a deal with China's Alibaba, Singapore hosts World Rugby Sevens games, and Japan's Sunwolves this year joined the Super Rugby competition traditionally focused on teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Plus, the next Rugby World Cup is set to take place in Japan in 2019.