Amazon in the mix for UK rights to Six Nations
Internet giant Amazon is reported to have entered the bidding race for broadcasting rights to rugby union’s Six Nations Championship in the UK after its coverage of the Autumn Nations Cup last year.
UK public-service broadcaster the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV hold the rights for the current cycle in a six-year deal worth £90 million per annum that ends this year.
The tender process for the competition’s next rights cycle, beginning in 2022, has now reopened after being paused in March last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and includes the traditional autumn internationals contested by European and southern hemisphere teams to increase the value.
Citing inside sources, Telegraph Sport said Amazon is now bidding for the rights to the next cycle. Pay-television broadcaster Sky has been also been linked with an offer, while another joint bid from the BBC and ITV is expected.
Last year, the autumn internationals were replaced by the eight-team Autumn Nations Cup due to the pandemic. Amazon picked up the rights to show 14 of the 16 games in the UK in what was the platform’s first venture into live rugby.
The involvement of Amazon could have a significant impact on the value of the deal and raises the prospect of a hybrid offering of free-to-air and subscription-based coverage of the Six Nations.
Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners is close to buying a 14.5 per cent stake in the business, and would likely be seeking an increase in the value of the UK rights deal.
Commenting on the possibility of the competition going behind a pay-wall last month, Ben Morel, chief executive of the Six Nations, said: “I don’t think it’s quite as binary as free-to-air and paywall, there’s a lot of possibilities on the spectrum. At the same time, you need to factor in those changing habits too.
“As is the nature of the industry, we are entering into a new broadcast discussion and we will have to, like any other year, strike the right balance.
“Everything goes back into growing the game of rugby and we are in need of appropriate funding and circumstances here have been quite telling in terms of that. But, at the same time, you need to find the right balance between financing and the exposure and the aspirational content we can bring to new audiences in order for the game to grow.
“The way consumers and fans consume sport and content is fast evolving.”
Viewing figures for the opening two rounds of this year’s championship, which is being held behind closed doors, have been strong, with Scotland’s Calcutta Cup victory over England securing a peak audience of 8.4 million on ITV.