Updated Mar 11th 2021, 9:33 PM
CONFIRMATION OF PRIVATE equity firm CVC buying a 1/7th share of Six Nations Rugby has been greeted with relief by the six unions who are giving up a portion of their competition for €426 million amidst the huge financial challenge caused by Covid-19.
The financial boost is timely but official news of the deal has once again raised fears that we could see the Six Nations moving behind a TV paywall in the future, as discussed on today’s edition of The42 Rugby Weekly podcast with Gavan Casey, Bernard Jackman, and Murray Kinsella.
With the current broadcasting deals for the Six Nations in Ireland and the UK expiring after this year’s championship, it remains to be seen what influence CVC – brought on board for their commercial expertise – has on the upcoming TV agreements.
While it does feel inevitable that at least some of the Six Nations and Autumn Internationals – also part of the Six Nations Rugby package – will be taken away from free-to-air TV, today’s podcast also underlined just how frustrating the current situation is for rugby supporters, with different competitions requiring several different subscriptions.
Gavan: “It’s a mess for fans. Anyone who wants to watch rugby, you need four or five subscriptions now if you want to watch all the top-level competitions and we still can’t watch the French Top 14.
“People can’t afford to be shelling out for six or seven different channels to watch their own team and international rugby. It feels like we’re moving away from growing the game from a TV standpoint even if this deal might top up the coffers short-term?”
Bernard: “I read this morning that the Six Nations gets £90 million from ITV and the BBC for the current deal, which is up this year.
“That sounds like a lot of money but the French have just signed a new TV deal for the Top 14 for €113 million a year, so more than the Six Nations but obviously with a lot more games.
The current Six Nations TV deals in Ireland and the UK expire this year. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
“The ideal scenario would be that we have once central hub to get our rugby but I don’t see that happening. I would imagine Sky Sports or Amazon will have some of the Six Nations next year and that will add to it.
“The problem is that Covid has really accentuated the need for cash, so whatever chance we had with the six unions saying ‘for the good of the game, we need to be on terrestrial TV,’ I think the debts accumulated during Covid and the cash reserves dwindling will mean it’s going to be a case that whoever pays the most will have the best rights.
“It’s not ideal at all but let’s see how it all unfolds and hopefully we get some compromise where at least some of the Six Nations and international rugby stays free-to-air.”
Murray: “You’re right, Gav, around fans and the way they’re able to engage with the sport.
“We did a newsletter about this for members of The42 yesterday and I’m blown away by the number of emails we’ve got back from people. This is their major frustration and gripe with the game.