BroadcastMedia Rights

BBC director general expects Six Nations to ‘probably’ go behind paywall despite bidding plan

By 12th March 2020 One Comment

Tony Hall does not hold high hopes for stopping pay-tv providers

BBC director general Tony Hall has revealed how the BBC and ITV hope to keep the Six Nations free-to-air.

Speaking at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport hearing on the work of the BBC on Thursday, Hall revealed that the public broadcaster is currently in negotiations for the rugby tournament. However, he admitted that he expects the competition to go behind a paywall.

He said: “The strength of running linear and online side-by-side is that we can bring the country together. For example the Six Nations. We are in the middle of negotiations over the Six Nations and want to keep it free-to-air but it probably won’t. It ought to be a listed event.”

Currently, Six Nations coverage is shared between the BBC and ITV. There have been reports that the competition could go behind a paywall at the next set of media rights bidding, with organisers not allowing the two free-to-air broadcasters to make another joint bid.

To get around this, Hall explained that the BBC would be willing to sub-licence the coverage to ITV. He continued: “It would be dreadful if it disappeared behind a paywall. I hope there’s a way to allow what we have done to continue. It should be listed properly.”

Currently the Six Nations is listed as a category B event by Ofcom – which means it is expected that at least highlights will be free-to-air.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport has demanded answers on reports surrounding the bidding process, but these comments could point towards the competition going behind a paywall from 2022.

The last time that this happened was from 1997-2000, when Sky exclusively showed England’s home matches.