TV3 wins rights to 2015 Rugby World Cup

Station’s bidding war with RTÉ inextricably linked with battle for GAA All-Ireland series

Captain Richie McCaw holds aloft the Rugby World Cup trophy.  Photograph: Inpho

Captain Richie McCaw holds aloft the Rugby World Cup trophy. Photograph: Inpho

Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 06:00

TV3 has won the rights to televise the 2015 Rugby World Cup in Ireland ahead of RTÉ. The decision is expected to be announced by the International Rugby Board, who sell the rights to the four-yearly global tournament, at some point next week.

The television bidding war in Ireland had always seemed to be inextricably linked with the almost simultaneous battle for the GAA’s All-Ireland championship, and as suspected at the time, there was always a possibility of there being a consequence for the World Cup.

By dint of RTÉ and Sky winning the rights to the summer’s GAA championship, and TV3 missing out, the latter organisation was able to utilise the money it would have spent acquiring any rights to Gaelic games by supplementing its bid for the rugby World Cup.

Given RTÉ’s long-established position as the primary broadcaster of rugby in Ireland, and commitment to covering the entire tournament, one can only presume the IRB was swayed toward TV3 by a bigger financial offer, in what will be a demoralising blow for the national broadcasters. It remains to be seen whether TV3 will sell some of the games to Setanta Sports, as it did for the 2007 World Cup in France.

The disparity and variety of rugby’s coverage has already been displayed by the shared BT/Sky Sports deal for the new European Rugby Champions Cup. BT will televise 35 of the tournament’s 70 matches, as will Sky, and can be purchased as part of the Setanta Sports Pack.

But although this was trumpeted by Setanta in an announcement yesterday, significantly they merely said that “there have been no discussions about increasing the subscription price”.

The Setanta Sports Pack on satellite costs €19.99 a month, and this includes Setanta Ireland, Setanta 1, BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN, though for commercially sensitive reasons they do not reveal how many homes subscribe to the Setanta Sports Pack in Ireland.

Subscribing to Sky, with Sky Sports, costs €450 per year, and even were the Setanta Sports Pack to remain the same, those rugby supporters who wish to add it to their monthly bill will thus fork out just shy of another €240 per year.

Although it has not been confirmed publicly, it is believed that BT will have first pick on matches involving the Aviva Premiership teams in England, with Sky Sports having first pick on them in Ireland as well as Wales, Scotland, France and Italy.

Nevertheless, were Leinster, Munster and Ulster to be drawn in pools with English teams, the away games would only be available on BT, aside from which BT will also have two quarter-finals and a semi-final, which could involve Irish sides. The final will be broadcast live on both BT Sport and Sky Sports.

Every weekend therefore, all 10 pool games will be televised live, with five apiece on BT and Sky Sports. A play-off game in May to decide on the final places for the European Rugby Champions Cup will also be televised on BT Sport.

Brian Quinn, marketing operations director for Setanta Sports, commented: “This announcement is the icing on the cake for our already strong rugby coverage, which includes 69 live Aviva premiership games, live Top 14, Leinster schools rugby, Munster schools rugby and international Test coverage.

“We look forward to showing the best teams from Ireland, England, France Wales, Scotland and Italy and the action will start this May with the new play-off event.”

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