RTÉ still in mix for Rugby World Cup TV rights
RTÉ Sport are still involved in the bidding war for TV rights to the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Contrary to reports that TV3 had secured rights for the tournament, RTÉ sources maintain they are very much in competition for the broadcasting rights, with the IRB to make a decision in the next two weeks.
Having withdrawn from the bidding for rights to the Pro12 on foot of Sky securing 30 matches per season, thereby leaving the field clear for TG4 to go on televising that competition along with BBC Northern Ireland, the national broadcaster have evidently prioritised the World Cup in England, along with the November Internationals and the Six Nations.
This in turn follows the pronouncement by the RTÉ director general Noel Curran a year ago that RTÉ would suffer a 25 per cent reduction in sports rights by 2014.
Co-incidentally, RTÉ, TV3 and Setanta are also embroiled in an equally hard-fought bidding war along with Sky for rights to the All-Ireland hurling and football series, which may affect how the three Irish broadcasters balance their bids.
This amounts to a delicate but high risk game of poker, although the IRB are not likely to decide based solely on money, as evidenced by their decision to sell rights to the 2015 World Cup to ITV when it was believed Sky were also in the market – it is understood the BBC did not even enter the bidding given their stretched resources, particularly in light of broadcasting the London Olympics.
The IRB may also be mindful of Ireland’s impending bid to host the 2023 World Cup, but recent history gives little clues, given both the 2003 and 2011 World Cups were shared between RTÉ and Setanta, whereas 2007 was shared between TV3 and Setanta.
Leading figures from Sky Sports will be in Dublin to take in the sold-out Leinster-Munster match at the Aviva Stadium, in the likelihood this fixture will be one of their prime choices next season.
Under the deal, to safeguard the League’s presence on terrestrial television, Sky will not be able to show the same fixture home and away, meaning, for example, were they to pick next season’s Aviva derby, then the Thomond Park meeting would be shown on TG4.
On foot of Rabo ceasing sponsorship of the Pro12 at the end of this season, and given the increased security of the competition, it is understood prospective sponsors will also be in attendance at the Aviva. Helpfully, the four competing countries have reached a new accord as equal partners, while there will be heightened qualification requirements for the new European Champions Cup.
Amongst the Pro12’s new suitors are Turkish Airlines, but contrary to rumours, neither Heineken nor any other drinks sponsor are involved.
With BT and Sky having brokered a deal for shared coverage of the European Champions Cup, which will have four to six “partners’” as opposed to a title sponsor such as Heineken to ape its footballing equivalent, the likelihood remains Sky will be the main broadcaster of matches in Ireland.
Although the Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian share of participation funds in the new European order will drop from 11.26 per cent apiece (and 10.4 per cent to the Italians) to a combined 33.3 per cent, with the French and English share rising from 20.4 to 33.3 per cent, the respective Celtic Unions have been assured they will not lose money, which in the IRFU’s case would be in the region of €8 million per annum.
Out to tender
To boost revenue, it is likely the French Federation and Ligue Nationale de Rugby will abandon restricting the Heineken Cup to free-to-air television, and put the European Champions Cup out to tender a la the Top 14, for which Canal+ recently secured a new €355 million five-year deal ahead of beIN Sport.