Sky New Zealand, the heavyweight pay-TV operator, and European media giant Viaplay, have both today (December 7) announced multi-year deals to provide live coverage of European rugby union’s top club competitions.

Through a tie-up with the European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) continental governing body and organizer, Sky Sport will cover 63 matches per season from the top-level Champions Cup and select fixtures from the second-tier Challenge Cup.

There will also be “highlights, exclusive interviews, and content” provided over the course of the deal. Initially, for the opening fixtures on December 9 and 10, five games will be covered.

Viaplay, meanwhile, will cover at least four Challenge Cup (EPCR’s second-tier competition) matches in each of the group stage rounds for a UK audience.

Four matches per Champions Cup round will be covered by Sky NZ on both linear and digital platforms, with a Match of the Week to air each Saturday morning (New Zealand time).

Sky NZ also showed action from that competition last season, while action has been covered by TVNZ and Spark Sport as well in recent years.

This year’s Champions Cup begins on December 9, with England’s London Irish taking on French side Montpellier Herault.

The 2022-23 Challenge Cup starts simultaneously, as Stade Francais Paris face Benetton Rugby.

Adam Crothers, Sky NZ’s head of sport partnerships, commented on the partnership: “This deal is a great one for Sky’s customers, securing the best of top-tier European club rugby with the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup for years to come. The Champions Cup starts this weekend and runs through our summer months, adding to the year-round feast of rugby for Sky customers.”

François Vergnol, commercial and marketing director at EPCR, added: “New Zealand is a huge rugby nation and we are proud to be working with Sky Sport to bring the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup to rugby fans across the country. Adding Sky Sport to our broadcast partner family gives New Zealand rugby fans the perfect opportunity to watch breakfast rugby throughout the summer.”

For the Viaplay – EPCR deal, the broadcaster’s head of UK sports, Ed Breeze, said: “Rugby is a top priority for Viaplay in the UK, and our viewers can look forward to some of the very best action from the EPCR Challenge Cup over the coming two years.”

Viaplay officially launched in the UK on November 1, having acquired the Premier Sports international pay-TV streaming service.

Dominic McKay, chair at EPCR, added: “Viaplay is an important addition to the wide range of subscription and free-to-air agreements we have in place for the new broadcast cycle… They have rugby broadcast experience in place and are certain to bring new viewers to the tournament in the UK."

Last week, it was announced that Premier Sports Asia, a division of the international pay-TV operator now owned by Viaplay, had entered into a two-year deal with EPCR to cover the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup across 20 Southeast Asian countries.

In October, meanwhile, EPCR secured other coverage deals for the next two seasons in the UK and Ireland with pay-TV’s BT Sport and free-to-air's ITV, RTE, and S4C. Viaplay will now join this cohort of broadcast partners.

The coming 2022-23 season will be a momentous one in EPCR’s history, with the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup set to welcome South African entrants for the first time.

Image: David Rogers/Getty Images