CVC Investment in Six Nations Looks a Done Deal

It appears now to be a done deal that CVC is to buy a 14.5 per cent stake in Six Nations Rugby for a sum in excess of €400 million.

While neither party are confirming this to be the case as of this morning, French Rugby Union President Bernard Laporte told his AGM over the weekend that the deal had been struck and that it would yield a payout for each of the six nations of £67 Million or €75 Million.

This would be a massive boost for the IRFU, following on from the deal confirmed earlier this year around a similar buy in to PRO14 Rugby by CVC.

The venture capitalists also own a stake in Premiership Rugby in England and is now the biggest single player in World Rugby.

The investment will alter the dynamic between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere Unions and it is likely that the timing of a proposed global World Rugby calendar will now have to take more account of what TV companies are looking for from the next round of media rights in the Six Nations.

Neither Ireland nor Britain have the tournament on the protected list of sporting events that have to be shown free to air and the deal make it more likely now that in the next round, due to take effect from 2022, that Pay TV will make a significant push for the rights.

2020 is the third year of Virgin media holding exclusive rights to the men’s Six Nations in ireland, having beaten RTÉ to the rights in 2017.

RTÉ held onto the rights for the Women’s and U20 Six Nations tournaments.

Formula 1 became a wholly Pay Per View experience once CVC bought into that sport in 2006. There was criticism levelled at it for a lack of interest in promotion or reaching out to a younger audience.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper, Giles Richards said that “There was pursuit of profit at every possible level but with apparently little interest in making the experience better or more popular.”

The key difference may yet prove to be that CVC was a majority stakeholder in F1 and it will not have the same level of control over Six Nations.

It also controlled the entire sport as opposed to tournaments and so could operate with fewer restrictions.

That said it is in it for the business of making money and broadcast revenues remain the single biggest item on the revenue sheet, especially when Pay Per View is brought into the mix.

There will be anguish from traditionalists and genuine concern over the ongoing popular appeal of a sport which has always been built to its current size on spectator rather than broad based playing engagement.

The Heineken Champions Cup has reversed a trend by partially returning to Free to Air TV in the past season after over a decade of paywall only live matches.

Whether that is a quirk or a trend will be interesting to watch as Rugby gets to know its new investor at the level of Club and Country.

Guinness are in the middle of the second year of a six year partnership as Title sponsor of the tournament and will undoubtedly have a say over the destiny of broadcast coverage, though Pay Per View bringing people into pub settings, backed up by terrestrial highlights to expand the brand reach might not be seen as a negative.

Interesting times ahead.

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Image Credit: Dan Sheridan, Inpho.ie

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