PRO14 Rugby has confirmed the details of its broadcast arrangements in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from next season and there will be plenty of change.
Sky Sports have been the traditional mainstay broadcast partner in recent years with BBC Northern Ireland, BBC Scotland and BBC Wales showing regular games on Friday nights.
The revenue derived from this collection of deals was relatively small, around a quarter of that paid by BT Sport to cover the English Premiership, and a change in dance partners has been widely rumoured for months.
The new deal is with fledgeling broadcaster Premier Sports, who will now have the rights to broadcast all 152 games in next year’s tournament and for the following two seasons at least.
One game from each round of matches will also be broadcast free to air by their partner Freesports which is said to be available on the Sky and Virgin platforms to 22 million UK homes.
Premier Sports also has its own player service, making it more accessible in an era where ‘cord cutting’ and a move away from the main TV screen continues to challenge traditional media.
The cost of a subscription to the new service from next season is likely to be in the region of £100 or £10 per month.
Details of the presentation team, schedules and likely additional analysis and documentary coverage around the tournament will be announced in due course.
The Irish broadcast rights, as well as those for South Africa, have been tendered separately and a major announcement on how Irish viewers will be able to watch is expected tomorrow morning Thursday, May 3rd. eir Sport is expected to be unveiled as the principal broadcast partner and news is also expected on whether they will follow a similar path and produce their own free to air channel or whether those rights will be retained by TG4, or possible even RTÉ.
The new deals, including those with South African TV are expected to double the media revenue generated by the PRO14 with a corresponding stronger dividend going back to the IRFU and the Provinces.
“The partnership with Premier Sports will be a watershed moment for the Guinness PRO14, our clubs and their supporters,” said Martin Anayi, CEO of PRO14 Rugby.
“As an innovative global rugby championship full of world-class players we are always looking to raise our game and this relationship is a bold step for us. This will take coverage of the Guinness PRO14 to a new level and unlock the tournament’s vast potential.”
“By better resourcing our clubs through increased central revenue, we will ensure sustainability so they can further invest from the ground up to drive success on and off the pitch so they can retain supporters and attract new fans of all ages. Now rugby fans will be able to watch every game in the Guinness PRO14 which offers them more action than ever and that’s a terrific achievement.”
“The bidding for broadcast rights showed us just how much interest there is in the Guinness PRO14 since our expansion into South Africa and the significantly increased revenue will allow us to invest back into our clubs, a figure which has doubled over the last three years.”
“Most major rugby properties now have a subscription model with broadcasters valuing the Guinness PRO14 as one of the premier club competitions in world rugby,” added Dermot Rigley, Commercial and Marketing Director who joined PRO14 Rugby from RTÉ in 2017.
“We believe that Premier Sports and the availability of FreeSports will offer us the best of both worlds – incredible quality and value for supporters as well as reach for our Championship.”
“The production standards will be like nothing ever seen before in the Guinness PRO14 with each game broadcast in HD and complemented by expert analysis, TMOs at every game and highlights programmes.”
“In the digital era, the pace of change in delivery of sports content to supporters across multiple platforms, is relentless and the PRO14 team has worked hard over a period of many months to reach a balance of subscription and free-to-air coverage over the next broadcast cycle,” said Mark Davies, CEO of Pro Rugby Wales.
Once the full details of the Irish deal are known tomorrow it will become clearer just how big of a step this is potentially towards a tipping point in terms of subscription TV for sport in Ireland.
TV coverage of the May 12th European Champions’ Cup decider between Leinster and Racing 92 from Bilbao will only be available on BT Sport available in Ireland through subscription to the eir Sport package.
Image Credit: Brendan Moran, Sportsfile