ERC and Sky Sports announce new deal

Wed, Sep 12, 2012, 01:00

Rugby:ERC and Sky Sports have agreed a new four-year deal for exclusive live coverage of European club rugby competitions on a day when the Premiership rugby clubs announced a €190 million television agreement with BT that suggests a conflict of interest in terms of the two television deals.

The new deal for the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup continues a series of major rights renewals for Sky Sports over the last 18 months. The extended contract starts in the autumn of 2014, after the current deal, and will extend the long-standing relationship with ERC to the end of the 2017/18 season - a 15th year.

Under the new ERC deal Sky Sports will continue to hold exclusive live rights to – THE HEINEKEN CUP: Exclusive live matches from each of the first four rounds, plus all knock out stages and finals for a further four seasons, across the UK and Ireland.

AMLIN CHALLENGE CUP: Exclusive live coverage of matches in the opening rounds, knockout stages, both Semi-Finals and the Final across the UK and Ireland.

Barney Francis, Managing Director of Sky Sports, said: “This new deal with ERC gives us live European rugby for another four seasons. “We have been pleased to be partners with ERC for over a decade and see their tournaments grow. This is rugby of the highest quality and these competitions give our viewers over 60 live games across eight months.

“The Heineken Cup and Amlin Cup will continue to line up with our exclusive live coverage of the British & Irish Lions, England’s autumn internationals and the best rugby from the southern hemisphere.”

ERC Chief Executive, Derek McGrath, said, “Over the past 10 years Sky Sports has made a major contribution to the development of European club rugby and ERC is delighted to be able to extend our partnership for a further four seasons until 2018. 

“Sky Sports innovative coverage and commitment has greatly enhanced the game in Europe and we look forward to working together over the next six seasons as the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup reach new heights.”

This season Sky Sports offers live Rugby union throughout the calendar with; the Heineken Cup, Amlin Challenge Cup, England’s QBE Autumn Internationals, the British & Irish Lions tour, Southern Hemisphere rugby and the Aviva Premiership.  Coverage is available live on Sky Sports HD channels across TV, PC, mobile and tablet devices.

Earlier in the day the Aviva English Premiership clubs confirmed that the tournament is to be televised exclusively live on BT Vision from next season in a deal worth up to £152 million (€190,138,320).

The four-year contract will see BSkyB and ESPN, who currently split coverage of matches, replaced by BT as the only platform on which to watch top flight English club rugby. In a further development, BT will also have exclusive live broadcast rights to games played by Premiership teams in European competitions from 2014 for three years.

This could potentially result in the fragmentation of European coverage if BSkyB continue to hold overall rights to any competition, although the landscape may have changed significantly by then. The qualification process for the Heineken Cup is to be discussed at a meeting between ERC stakeholders in Dublin next Tuesday.

The English and French clubs are currently in dispute with ERC over its structure and have threatened to set up an alternative tournament when the current agreement ends in 2014 if their demands are not met.

“This is a game-changing agreement and will deliver a service that I know our club supporters will enjoy,” Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty said. “We are delighted to have concluded our discussions with such an ambitious partner that will help bring the Premiership to new audiences.”

The agreement sees BT secure broadcast rights to up to 69 Premiership matches per season and also includes games from the entire J.P. Morgan Asset Management Sevens Series.

However ERC also questioned the validity of the BT deal with the Aviva Premiership clubs. A statement from the Heineken Cup organisers read: “Following a media announcement today (12 September), ERC has raised questions over a purported deal by Premiership Rugby to sell the UK broadcast rights to European club rugby tournaments.

“While awaiting further information regarding Premiership Rugby’s proposed agreement with BT, the ERC Board, which met in Dublin today, believes that any such agreement would be in breach both of IRB regulations and of a mandate from the ERC Board itself. European club rugby’s six participant Unions have granted the authority to sell broadcast rights to its tournaments solely to ERC.

“It was unanimously agreed at an ERC Board meeting on 6 June, 2012 that ERC would conclude a new four-year agreement with Sky Sports for the UK and Ireland exclusive live broadcast rights to the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup until 2018. Premiership Rugby was party to that decision.

“ERC remains determined to honour its own commercial commitments and to continue its work to further develop the European club game.”

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