Six Nations set to stay on free-to-air TV… with BBC and ITV delivering record viewing figures2 min read

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Six Nations set to stay on free-to-air TV with BBC and ITV delivering record viewing figures as they see off challenge from Sky and BT

  • The Six Nations looks likely to remain on free-to-air TV in the UK via BBC and ITV  
  • The current deal is worth £90million and is delivering record viewing numbers
  • Wales’ victory against England last year attracted a peak audience of 8.9m
  • Sky Sports or BT Sport could still bid high for one of the packages on offer  

The Six Nations is set to stay on free-to-air television during the next broadcast cycle from 2022 with the BBC and ITV confident of retaining the rights when the tender process begins next month.

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New investors CVC Capital Partners had hoped to land a bigger contract, by taking some or all of the tournament to satellite television, to begin the process of recouping some of their proposed £300 million investment.

But the private equity company’s purchase of a 15 per cent stake in the Six Nations has yet to be completed ahead of the impending rights auction.

The Six Nations is set to stay on free-to-air TV in the UK, with games on both BBC and ITV

The Six Nations is set to stay on free-to-air TV in the UK, with games on both BBC and ITV  

BBC presenter Jason Mohammad presents live coverage from the Principality Stadium

BBC presenter Jason Mohammad presents live coverage from the Principality Stadium

CVC’s long-term strategy is to bundle all the home nations’ domestic and international matches together into one rights package to increase value — their talks with the Six Nations follow previous investments in the Gallagher Premiership and the Pro14 — but that plan may need to wait. 

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While the domestic rights for the autumn internationals, Six Nations, Premiership and Pro 14 are all available from the 2022 season and will all come on to the market at a similar time, such a bundling is likely to prove too complex, given the need for a deal in the next few months.

The Six Nations powerbrokers are also largely content with the existing deal with BBC and ITV, which is worth £90m a year between them and is delivering record viewing figures. 

As a result, the broadcasters are confident of retaining the rights they currently share, although Sky Sports or BT Sport may still try to outbid them for one of the packages.

Wales’ victory over England in Cardiff last year attracted a peak audience of 8.9m on the BBC, more than an FA Cup tie between Manchester United and Chelsea in the same week. 

Covering the Celtic nations is particularly important to the BBC as it helps fulfil their remit of being a national broadcaster, fundamental to keeping licence-fee funding.

Sky Sports are expected to focus on retaining live rights to England’s autumn series, leaving the Six Nations to terrestrial channels.

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