BT Sport has signed a four-year contract extension for Premiership rugby, allowing the broadcaster to exclusively show matches until the end of the 2020-21 season.
BT’s previous four year agreement with Premiership Rugby cost £152 million and it’s believed that this new extension is worth significantly more.
Mark McCafferty, Premiership Rugby’s chief executive said: “BT Sport has been a fantastic partner for English club rugby so we are delighted that we have been able to extend our relationship with them for a further four years. In the 18 months we have been on-air with them our live TV audiences have grown by 50% so it is clear that the partnership is going from strength to strength.”
The new deal will see BT broadcast up to 80 live games every season, up from the 69 games which was allotted by the previous contract. The broadcaster will also have leave to show the entire Singha Premiership Rugby 7’s Series, as well as midweek review and preview programming to frame the weekend’s action.
BT is also believed to be considering a bid for exclusive rights to broadcast Six Nations rugby, after the tournament’s organisers opened the door for premium networks to bid on broadcast rights for the 2018 contest.
While increased revenues are likely to be seen as a good thing for Premiership Rugby executives and BT’s own suits, the movement of top-flight sport away from free-to-air platforms isn’t likely to be viewed as favourably by fans.
Both Sky and BT have recently come under fire for the pricing of their sports channels. One recent survey, conducted on football fans, found that as many as 83 per cent felt that current pricing was preventing them from subscribing to watch their teams play. Those prices are expected to rise significantly in the coming months, to help broadcasters pay for the increasingly costly rights associated with top-level sport.