BBC 'unhappy after Premiership Rugby pulls FTA final offer'
The BBC, the UK public-service broadcaster, is involved in a dispute with Premiership Rugby after claiming English rugby union’s top-tier pulled an offer to show its upcoming final free-to-air, it has been reported.
The league’s chief executive Darren Childs is understood to have approached the BBC with a proposal to show the final between Wasps and Exexter Chiefs on 24 October live to a broader audience but the broadcaster recently discovered it is now off the table, according to the UK's Guardian newspaper.
The BBC had been preparing to provide coverage of the final at the national stadium in Twickenham on its BBC Two channel but was forced to stand down an entire broadcast unit and studio pundits at short notice, with the sudden u-turn understood to have angered BBC officials.
Pay-television operator BT Sport holds domestic rights to Premiership Rugby but the league is believed to have been interested in making the game available to a larger audience at a prime-time 6pm (UK) slot.
Broadening the viewership for its showpiece fixture was of particular interest to the league as there will be no fans in attendance inside the 82,000-seater stadium as things stand.
The Guardian reports that some members of the BBC’s planned outside broadcast team were made aware of the situation only when Premiership Rugby issued details of its coverage plans to the media via email last Friday.
Premiership Rugby told the newspaper that talks over potential live free-to-air coverage had merely been “exploratory” and “routine” but failed to offer an explanation as to why the BBC had been forced to cancel its plans at such late notice.
The league said: “BT Sport are an open and flexible partner but it did not get to the point of us giving BT Sport a formal proposal.”
A peak audience of 205,000 tuned in for the semi-finals last Saturday.
Premiership Rugby’s rights situation remains up in the air as BT Sport’s £40 million- ($52.2 million) per-year deal expires at the end of the 2020-21 season, with the two parties still yet to agree a renewal.
The pay-TV giant has held rights since 2013 but the upcoming 2020-21 season, which is due to start on the weekend of 20 to 22 November, will be its last as it stands.