BT, BSkyB scrum down for rugby TV ruck

Editor | 13-09-2012

Even though it is very much a minority sport compared with football, rugby is now beginning to throw its heft in the pay-TV stakes with two significant deals with BT and BSkyB.

As regards the former, BT has kicked incumbents Sky and ESPN into touch to land with English Premiership Rugby what it calls one of the biggest broadcast deals in the history of club rugby, signing a contract worth up to £152 million for a range of exclusive live rights over a four year period.

BT will have the exclusive live broadcast rights for four years to show Aviva Premiership Rugby and the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Sevens from the 2013-14 season. It will also have exclusive live broadcast rights to matches played by Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs in any future European competitions from 2014-15 for three years. Coverage of Live Aviva Premiership matches are currently split between BSkyB and ESPN.

“This is a game-changing agreement and will deliver a service that I know our club supporters will enjoy,” said Mark McCafferty, Chief Executive of Premiership Rugby, the umbrella organisation of the Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs. “We are delighted to have concluded our discussions with such an ambitious partner that will help bring Premiership Rugby to new audiences.”

Yet not to be outdone, only hours after BT was celebrating another major English sports broadcast deal along with its secondary rights to English Premier football, Sky announced that it had agreed a new four-year deal with the European Club Rugby (ERC) for exclusive live coverage of European Rugby competitions. The new deal for the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup starts in the autumn of 2014, after the current deal, and will extend a long-standing relationship that broadcaster has with the ERC to the end of the 2017-2018 season.

Sky Sports will continue to hold exclusive live rights to exclusive live matches from each of the first six rounds of The Heineken Cup, plus all knock out stages and finals for a further four seasons, across the UK and Ireland. In the Amlin Challenge Cup Sky will have exclusive live coverage of matches in the opening rounds, knockout stages, both semi-finals and the final across the UK and Ireland.

Commented ERC Chief Executive Derek McGrath: “Over the past ten years Sky Sports has made a major contribution to the development of European club rugby and ERC is delighted to be able to extend our partnership for a further four seasons until 2018. Sky Sports innovative coverage and commitment has greatly enhanced the game in Europe and we look forward to working together over the next six seasons as the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup reaches new heights.”