The telecoms giant BT has today announced that it has signed a four-year broadcasting agreement with Premiership Rugby at the staggering cost of £152 million.
The agreement will mean that from the 2013/2014 season till the end of 2017, BT will hold the exclusive live broadcasting rights to all the Aviva Premiership games and the JP Morgan Sevens Series.
This new deal brings to an end the agreement between Premiership Rugby and BSkyB which had been running since 1994, and more recently from 2010 with BSkyB and Disney’s ESPN, which both shared the broadcasting rights.
This is a further big hit to Sky and its prominent place as the largest sport broadcaster in the country. They will still have the live rights to England’s summer tours, the Autumn Internationals and the British and Irish Lions tours, but rugby union in England will no longer have a weekly presence on its stations.
From 2014/15 BT will also hold the exclusive rights to matches played by Premiership clubs in any future European competitions, for three years. This is key as the English clubs, along with the French clubs, have given two years’ notice that they will pull out of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup unless the changes that they have been pressing for are met.
This new ground-breaking agreement means that from 2014 BT will have live broadcast rights for up to 69 matches per season, making it the place to be for any rugby couch potatoes.
Mark McCafferty, the chief executive of Premiership Rugby, declared that, “This is a game-changing agreement and will deliver a service that I know our club supporters will enjoy.”
For the basic rugby fan all this information is great, but you’re still probably asking what does this mean for me?
The increase in value of the contract can be seen as a positive step: the money can be reinvested by the clubs into their infrastructure and at grass-roots levels and help improve to the game across the country. BT have also said they will help all twelve Aviva Premiership clubs improve their technical infrastructure so that they can be at the forefront of this new technical age.
But conversely, there do seem to be some grey areas in terms of how people can actually watch the coverage. Does the consumer have to have own a BT Vision box to watch the matches, or will the games be available through a Sky subscription or similar?
Does the average rugby fan have to switch to BT broadband and then obviously a BT phone line in order to get a BT Vision subscription? Will people really jump through these hoops to watch the coverage, and how much will it cost?
Marc Watson has tried to down play these concerns and stop rumours by saying that BT plans, “to bring the excitement of the very best matches to as wide an audience as possible. We will also be bringing all of the action together in one place and will look to distribute it on a variety of platforms.”
Is this good for the game? In the short term it means more money for clubs and investment in the sport, but will it result in fewer people watching the game than before?
Let us know your thoughts about it below.