By Phoebe Street
Premier Sports, the UK and Ireland pay-television broadcaster, has agreed a new four-year rights deal for the United Rugby Championship, the revamped Europe-based rugby union clubs competition.
The network will provide coverage of all 151 games in both the UK and Ireland, starting with the 2021-22 season.
The deal extends Premier Sports' relationship with the competition, as it has shown the Pro14 in the UK for the last three years.
However, this is the first time that the network will have rights in Ireland.
The URC will also be shown in Ireland via RTE and TG4, the Irish public-service providers, which this week agreed their own four-year deals for the competition.
Premier Sports is to show more than 100 games on an exclusive basis in the UK, with the URC in negotiations with other broadcasters in the country.
The URC builds on other Premier Sports acquisitions, including French rugby's Top 14 in a recent deal that runs to the end of the 2022-23 season.
It was announced this week that the Pro14 was being rebranded as the URC, with four top South African teams – the Sharks, Stormers, Lions and Bulls – joining 12 established sides from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a 16-team competition.
The URC will comprise one division, as opposed to two conferences in the old competition, with the 2021-22 season to begin in September, and each team to play 18 regular season fixtures, leading to playoffs, and a grand final next June.
Premier Sports will provide territory-specific commentary teams for their live URC games, and is increasing its studio coverage, with competition-wide analysis and insight each week, and launching a new OTT Premier Player service for UK customers, which will be in place for the new season.
Martin Anayi, chief executive of the URC, said: “Premier Sports have been our biggest supporters in their first three years with us and they are as eager as we are to see the United Rugby Championship set new standards. They have become disrupters in the rugby space having most recently picked up Top 14 rights and from our very first conversations in 2017 they challenged us to show every game live.
“Before Premier Sports broadcast our league fans never had the chance to watch every minute of their team’s campaign – since then Premier have broadcast over 1,000 hours of live rugby and created a new standard that will carry into the United Rugby Championship. Premier Sports want to raise the bar and their marquee names will stir debate to ensure every team’s story is told, they will extend their studio coverage and upgrade the Premier Player."
Richard Sweeney, the chief executive of Premier Sports, added: “We are absolutely delighted to have secured another four years of exclusive rights with the United Rugby Championship. Premier Sports will be the only place to watch all 21 game weekends per season from opening weekend to the Grand Final with every single game live on our channels. We’ll deliver all the tournament action across all five rugby nations plus host more than 100 live and exclusive games through the season."