ESPN grabs Guinness Premiership rights

ESPN has reached a multi-year agreement with Premier Rugby for exclusive live rights to a batch of Guinness Premiership games from the 2010/11 season.

Running until the 2012/13 season, the deal enables ESPN to broadcast 43 live games each year, including exclusive coverage of the Guinness Premiership Final and one of the two semi-finals. All highlights can also be shown on ESPN's digital media resources, such as ESPN Scrum.

The rights were previously owned by sports broadcaster Setanta, which signed a joint multi-year agreement with Sky Sports to share the coverage. However, Setanta's games had to be re-tendered after the broadcaster collapsed in June.

Under the new arrangement, Sky Sports will still broadcast 26 live Guinness Premiership games for each season, including a semi-final tie.

"This deal with ESPN secures a partnership with one of the world's leading broadcasters, who become yet another blue chip supporter of club rugby in England," said Premier Rugby commercial director Jon Varney.

"Starting next season, our new television deals mean we have doubled the number of live televised Premiership matches, which will further raise the profile of the sport in the UK and overseas and will allow our clubs and sponsors to derive even greater exposure and value.

"It also means supporters have more chance to see their team on live television. ESPN are renowned for their innovation and we are all genuinely excited about the opportunity of working with them to drive value in both our businesses."

ESPN vice president TV channels EMEA Jeroen Oerlemans added: "The Guinness Premiership is among the very best UK sports competitions, with a passionate fanbase and top quality competition. We're thrilled to add it to our programming schedule and know that it will deliver great value for fans, advertisers and our partners."

The new rights will run in addition to ESPN's existing agreements for live coverage of French Top 14 Orange Rugby and archive Rugby World Cup games on ESPN Classic.