Six Nations kept free after BBC and ITV joint bid

Picture: Ian Rutherford
Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE Scottish Rugby Union has welcomed the new deal which will see the BBC and ITV share coverage of the Six Nations tournament.

The broadcasters will split coverage of the tournament from 2016 to 2021, with the BBC screening the home games of Scotland, Wales and France and ITV showing live coverage of England, Ireland and Italy home matches.

The deal is believed to be worth around £50 million a year compared to the BBC’s current £40m annual contract. Yesterday’s announcement by the Six Nations Council sees the BBC hang on to at least some of the rights that it had feared it would lose to Sky Sports, forcing it to approach ITV to assist with a joint bid.

The SRU is now closely associated with digital broadcaster BT Sport, which holds naming rights to Murrayfield Stadium as part of a four-year sponsorship deal believed to be worth in the region of £20m. But yesterday Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson gave his approval of the new deal, which will see the northern hemisphere’s premier rugby tournament remain on free-to-air terrestrial television.

Dodson said: “Scottish Rugby welcomes today’s news. The RBS Six Nations is recognised as one of the world’s greatest sporting events, and we are delighted that this new deal will reinforce the attraction of the tournament.”

It will be the first time the Six Nations has been shown on ITV, which has been the home of the Rugby World Cup since 1991. The agreement also extends BBC Sport’s current contract allowing fans to continue to access the tournament via radio and online platforms. The broadcaster that does not screen the last match of a Six Nations weekend will transmit a Sunday highlights show.

Bill Beaumont, the former England captain and Six Nations council chairman, said: “Both the BBC and ITV are committed partners of rugby, ITV with their coverage of the Rugby World Cup and the BBC with their long history of covering the RBS Six Nations. “We are excited to be working with them both to continue to develop the interest in the championship and to ultimately grow this wonderful game for future generations to enjoy, either as a spectator, player or volunteer.”

The news comes as a boost to the BBC after a difficult few months in which it has lost live coverage rights to golf’s Open Championship to Sky Sports from 2017 and was forced to settle for a lesser package of live rights to the Olympic Games in 2022 and 20124. Yesterday’s announcement was welcomed by the corporation’s director of sport, Barbara Slater, who said: “It’s great news for fans of the Six Nations that the championship will be staying on free-to-air television. It’s a very special competition and our viewing figures from this year prove just how popular it is with audiences.”

Niall Sloane, ITV director of sport, said: “As ITV prepares to bring viewers exclusive, free-to-air live coverage of the Rugby World Cup later this year, we’re delighted to be strengthening our ties with the game by bringing audiences the first-class live action and unique atmosphere of the RBS Six Nations from next year.”