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BBC and ITV strike deal to keep Six Nations rugby on free-to-air TV

Thursday, July 9th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The BBC and ITV are to share the rights to Six Nations rugby for the next six years.

The RBS 6 Nations today confirmed the new deal, which keeps the championship on free-to-air television.

Live coverage of all Scotland, Wales and France home games from 2016 to 2021 will be broadcast by the BBC, while matches played in England, Ireland and Italy will be shown on ITV.

The broadcaster that does not show the last match of a Six Nations weekend will broadcast a Sunday highlights show rounding up the weekend’s action.

BBC Radio 5 live and 5 live sports extra will continue to provide live radio commentary of the games.

England’s 55-35 win over France on the final weekend of this year’s tournament drew a peak audience of 9.6m – the highest Six Nations audience since 2003.

Barbara Slater, the BBC’s director of sport, 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.

“We very much look forward to starting our new partnership with ITV and continuing our strong relationship with RBS 6 Nations.”

'World's best players'

Niall Sloane, ITV’s director of sport, said the broadcaster is delighted to strengthen its ties with the game as it prepares for its live coverage of the Rugby World Cup later this year.

Bill Beaumont, chairman of the Six Nations Council, 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 6 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 Six Nations is not on Ofcom’s list of sporting events that must be shown live on free-to-air TV, such as the Rugby World Cup final and the Olympics.

RBS 6 Nations matches featuring the Home Nations – England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – are classed as ‘category B’ events. This means free-to-air broadcasters must have the option to show highlights or a delayed transmission.

Six Nations CEO John Feehan said: “The RBS 6 Nations is unique, providing a rich and respected rivalry, with many or the world's best players at the very pinnacle of their careers, playing for their countries with pride and in the right spirit.

“This agreement with two major broadcasters will ensure that all these aspects are reflected in the coverage for the fans to enjoy.”

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