More than 50 provincial games in revamped Pro14 to be shown free-to-air

United Rugby Championship organisers in advanced talks with both RTÉ and TG4

A number of provincial fixtures in the revamped Pro14 will be shown on terrestrial television. Photograph: Alex Davidson/Inpho

A number of provincial fixtures in the revamped Pro14 will be shown on terrestrial television. Photograph: Alex Davidson/Inpho

 

More than 50 of the 60 fixtures involving the four Irish sides in next season’s rebranded United Rugby Championship will be shown on free-to-air. This includes all dozen derbies and any playoff matches involving the provinces.

Tournament organisers are in advanced talks with both RTÉ and TG4 regarding a new television deal, and confirmation that the free-to-air broadcasters will be covering the vast bulk of the matches involving Irish sides is likely to be announced in the next week or two.

While those viewers who wish to have access to all 151 games will still need to subscribe to Premier Sport, this new broadcasting deal marks a significant shift in television coverage of what was the Pro14.

In addition to the games involving Irish sides, TG4 will be broadcasting a number of other games in the URC. The “majority” of playoff games will be on free-to-air, including all matches involving Irish sides, and the final will alternate on a yearly basis between RTÉ and TG4.

There will be a similar shift toward free-to-air in the UK alongside Premier Sport’s ongoing pay-per-view coverage while tournament organisers will also be teaming up with an Irish broadcaster to offer an online streaming service for games.

This follows the official announcement of the rebranded competition, which will welcome the four South African clubs - the Bulls, Stormers, Sharks, and Lions - into a new 16-team, 18-game format.

Negotiations are at an advanced stage for new title sponsors in both South Africa and Europe, which could ultimately be the same in both hemispheres, although that has still to be finalised.

With the South African representation doubling, in effect, from two to four teams it is expected that their participation fee will rise from almost €7million to over €11.5million.

The broadcasting deals have also seen “a slight increase” in value according to the spokesperson, as less is more in terms of a reduced number of games but of higher quality. The value of the TV rights have increased in Wales and Scotland, while they have held their value in Ireland.

“It’s the best situation we could have hoped for given the covid backdrop,” said the spokesperson.

BBC Northern Ireland will also be covering some Ulster matches and the games involving Irish sides which will not be shown on free-to-air will mostly be Ulster away games due to Premier Sport’s UK rights.

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