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Six Nations refuse BBC/ITV joint bid to leave door open for Sky

By 2nd March 2020 3 Comments

It would be the first time in two decades it has gone behind a paywall

It has been reported that the Six Nations has refused to let the BBC and ITV make a combined bid for the competition in the next set of TV rights bidding.

This could leave the door open for Sky Sports, who The Rugby Paper reports is the favourite to secure a £300 million deal that would put the competition behind a paywall from 2022 “until 2024 at the earliest”.

The last time that Sky had the rights to show the Six Nations was from 1997-2000, when they exclusively broadcast England’s home games.

For the last set of rights, the BBC and ITV joined forces to outbid Sky and complete a £90 million deal. However, they have allegedly been refused the chance to do this again.

In response to the reports, a Six Nations spokesperson has been quoted as saying: “Six Nations are in the process of seeking bids for various sets of media rights but these are not due for some time.

“All of this is highly premature and speculative as no proposals have yet been received by any interested party. We would not rule anything out at this stage and the unions will collectively review and make a decision based on the nature of the offers received.”

Bidding for the rights begins this month, with the current Six Nations planned to end on 14 March. However, this may change depending on measures taken to avoid the spread of the coronavirus – Italy’s game against Ireland is currently postponed.

Broadcasters will be submitting for the Six Nations from 2022 and possibly beyond.

Currently, games involving the home nations are listed as category B events by Ofcom, which means they cannot be broadcast live on an exclusive basis unless adequate provision has been made for secondary coverage – it is expected that at least highlights would be on free-to-air TV.

Jack Genovese, Insights Analyst at Broadcast Intelligence, added on the possible decision: “It is interesting to reflect on why the Six Nations is (reportedly) adopting this policy. As a matter of fact, making the rights to the Six Nations less affordable for PSBs reduces the competition for those rights. One hypothesis is that the Six Nations thinks that competition amongst pay-TV providers is enough to push the price tag to the desired level. BT might in fact be interested in those rights, given its pre-existing rugby coverage. Amazon might also be interested in adding a prized event to its growing portfolio of live sports coverage.

“Another hypothesis is that the Six Nations has concluded that the growing competition from a joint bid from the BBC and ITV is not enough to push the value of the rights up to the level it desires,” he adds. “Meanwhile, by virtue of the regulatory regime, pushing the live coverage behind a paywall might make highlights rights more valuable.”