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Potential problem for BBC’s coverage of Super League

BBC Challenge Cup coverage

Sky Sports and RL Commercial have announced a transformational new three-year rights deal starting next season, with every Betfred Super League match to be broadcast live for the first time.

The new agreement extends the partnership beyond 30 years and will see Sky Sports broadcast all six matches in each Super League round live, totalling around 170 games each year across Sky Sports channels and platforms. This will include Magic Weekend fixtures, Play-Offs and all three Grand Finals – Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair.

Within the broadcaster’s investment in Super League rugby, video referees will now feature in all games, bringing increased consistency and integrity to the sport.

As part of the agreement, RL Commercial will retain and enhance the ability to attract new viewers, with the continuation of free-to-air broadcast opportunities as well as through a dedicated Super League-owned streaming platform – further details will be confirmed through the autumn.

As part of the Reimagining Rugby League project developed through the strategic partnership with IMG, membership of the men’s Super League will be determined by a new grading system from 2025.

This new plan starts this week with every game of Round One shown on Sky Sports. However, this is somewhat problematic for new broadcasters BBC who have also joined the sport.

This is because they have to share coverage of Wigan Warriors vs Castleford Tigers with Super Sports Action as well as competing against Catalans Dragons vs Warrington Wolves.

With three rugby league broadcasts at once, this will certainly divide the viewership which could hurt both Sky Sports and BBC in terms of viewing figures.

What’s more, both games and the rest of the fixtures will be available on SuperLeague+ as well.

RFL pleased with Super League TV deal

Super League camera

General view of the ground through a sky camera *** during the Super League match between Salford Red Devils and Castleford at AJ Bell Stadium, Manchester, UK on 13 April 2023. 

Rhodri Jones, RL Commercial Managing Director, said: “Super League’s partnership with Sky Sports has been constantly evolving since the competition was launched in 1996, and we are excited to have confirmed this significant extension which will lift that partnership, and the Super League itself, to a new level.

“To have all six fixtures in every round of the men’s Super League televised will offer major new opportunities for RL Commercial and our clubs, as well as allowing supporters to watch many more matches – and also making it possible for us to have video referees at all matches, a truly significant development for the Super League competition.

“The timing is perfect for a deal of this kind after such an exciting and competitive season underlining the genuine depth of the competition, and with Rugby League embarking on an exciting new era through our strategic partnership with IMG.

“Sky Sports also share our optimism about the potential for growth of the Women’s and Wheelchair Super Leagues in the next three years, so they also form an important part of the new deal.”

Jonathan Licht, Sky Sports Managing Director, said: “We are extremely proud of our long-standing relationship with Super League and delighted to be extending our partnership beyond three decades through this agreement. It’s been an exceptional season and we are excited that from next season every try, tackle and pass from every fixture will be shown live across Sky platforms – a first for the sport.

“Alongside our commitment to the women’s and wheelchair game, we are delighted that fans will be able to enjoy the most comprehensive offering in the history of the sport.”

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