Guinness PRO14 have signed a landmark TV rights deal which will see every match broadcast live on Premier Sports and FreeSports for at least the next three years.
Starting from the 2018-19 season, all 152 games from the Guinness PRO14 will be shown live on UK television for the first time by the subscription sports channel Premier Sports, with at least one live game per round shown on free-to-air television via its sister channel FreeSports.
Described by the competition’s organisers as “a quantum leap” for the competition, Premier Sports are promising to make the PRO14 its number one sporting property for the duration of the three-year deal, as it takes over the UK TV rights from current holders Sky Sports, BBC and S4C.
To support its coverage of every single match, the broadcaster will be launching Premier Sports 2 in time for next season, while it will also produce high-definition coverage for all games, as well as highlights shows, to take supporters right into the heart of the competition.
Premier Sports is available via subscription to 16 million UK homes across Sky and Virgin platforms and online via the Premier Player. It is available on a monthly subscription of £9.99 per month or an annual fee of £99.
FreeSports, which launched in August 2017, is set to be available to 22 million UK homes from next season across seven different platforms, including Freeview. The channel will also be available to watch in high definition on Sky and Virgin platforms from July.
Commenting on the new TV deal, Martin Anayi, CEO of PRO14 Rugby, said:
“The partnership with Premier Sports will be a watershed moment for the Guinness PRO14, our clubs and their supporters.
“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.”
From the beginning of next season, Premier Sports and FreeSports promises to deliver unprecedented coverage of the Guinness PRO14 with extended pre and post-match analysis, as well as regular highlights and magazine shows.
The channel, which has previously broadcast autumn internationals, will confirm further details of its on-air talent, commentators and programming in due course.
Richard Webb, Chief Operating Officer at Premier Sports and FreeSports, added:
“We are delighted to have concluded a deal to showcase what we consider to be the most exciting club rugby championship in the world.
“We believe having all 152 games from every round across our two Premier Sports channels for just £9.99 a month with high level, consistent production represents superb value and means that, for the first time, supporters have unprecedented access to every minute of the Guinness PRO14 all under one roof.”
Current pay-TV rights holders Sky Sports confirmed in January that they would end its coverage of PRO14 matches beyond its four-year which started in 2014.
There had been some concern among fans of PRO14 clubs that the new deal would mean subscription-only viewing from the 2018/19 season onwards.
PRO14 Rugby have confirmed that no fewer than 21 games – or one per round – will be shown live and free-to-air on FreeSports, although this represents a significant reduction in the number of PRO14 matches available to terrestrial audiences compared to the former deal with the BBC and S4C.
Dermot Rigley, Commercial and Marketing Director of PRO14 Rugby, said:
“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. 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.”
Negotiations over local language rights are continuing, with the possibility of some games being broadcast on S4C for Welsh-speaking audiences.
A joint bid for broadcast rights by BBC Wales, BBC Northern Ireland, BBC Scotland, BBC Alba and S4C was rejected in March, but the corporation still hopes it will continue to broadcast free-to-air highlights.
For greater detail about the PRO14’s new TV rights deal, a question and answer section is available via the official website – pro14rugby.org.