Rugby’s Six Nations has reached “an agreement in principle” with the BBC and ITV to remain on free-to-air TV in the UK.
The organisation has announced that it is in “exclusive discussions” with the broadcasters to extend their relationships by four-years to end after the 2025 Championships.
The deal will see ITV show all of England, Ireland, Italian and French home matches for the men’s Six Nations, while the BBC will broadcast Scotland and Wales’ home matches.
The deal also encompasses the Women’s Six Nations – which will be broadcast exclusively on the BBC with “unprecedented broadcast investment” – and BBC coverage of the Men’s Under-20’s Championship.
Following investment in the Six Nations from private equity firm CVC in 2020, there had been significant amounts of speculation over the fate of the tournament. The private equity firm was reportedly pushing for the rights to go to a pay TV broadcaster, with Sky, Amazon and BT Sport all apparently interested at one stage or another. However, the security provided by the existing rights holders in the current Covid-19-impacted sports rights market has likely informed this latest announcement.
Ben Morel, CEO of Six Nations Rugby said: “This is exciting news for fans and for our Championships. Both BBC and ITV have been excellent partners in recent years playing an important role in sharing the incredible moments that the Six Nations always produces, and celebrating the special place our Championships hold in the hearts of fans.
Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport continued: “For the millions of Six Nations fans across the UK, the Championships remaining free-to-air is wonderful news. We look forward to delivering live action from both the Men’s and Women’s as well as the Men’s Under-20’s Championships to the widest possible audience over the next four seasons. BBC Sport has led the way in increasing the profile of Women’s sports, so we are thrilled to now include the Women’s Six Nations as a permanent fixture on our broadcast calendar.”
Niall Sloane, ITV director of Sport, said: “ITV is delighted to have reached this agreement, which extends free-to-air coverage of such an important tournament and will ensure it remains centre stage each spring. With the addition of France home games to those of England, Ireland and Italy, we look forward to bringing ITV viewers a wealth of superb rugby from the Six Nations in the coming years.”
In Ireland, the Six Nations announced that it had entered into similar exclusive talks with RTÉ and Virgin Media Television earlier this month.