BBC confirms new Six Nations rugby broadcast deal

British public-service broadcaster the BBC confirmed on Wednesday that it had extended its deal to broadcast the RBS 6 Nations rugby union championship through to 2017 across its television, radio and online platforms.

The official announcement came after weeks of speculation that the BBC had committed to prolonging its relationship with the premier national team rugby tournament in the northern hemisphere. The broadcaster’s previous deal to carry the annual competition, which features England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales, was due to run until 2013.

Although financial details of the deal have not been disclosed, the Daily Mail newspaper reported earlier this month that the BBC’s new four-year rights deal for the Six Nations would cost up to £40 million per year. The 2011 tournament, which was won by England, generated an audience of 4.7 million per match – the highest viewing figures for 13 years.

The BBC’s director of sport, Barbara Slater, described the Six Nations as a “crown jewel in the sporting calendar” – an interesting description considering the tournament is currently listed in category B of the so-called ‘crown jewels’ list of sporting events reserved for free-to-air television in the UK, meaning highlights must be shown, but not necessarily live action. “Viewing figures continue to grow year on year and we look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Six Nations to build interest even further through the BBC’s unparalleled offering of TV, radio, online and interactive services,” Slater added.

Six Nations chief executive John Feehan said: “We are delighted that BBC Sport will maintain, extend and enhance its coverage of the RBS 6 Nations, the world’s biggest annual rugby tournament, for a further four years to March 2017. The RBS 6 Nations is a major sporting event combining traditional rugby values with modern means of fans’ support, this could not be possible without the support of BBC Sport, RBS and our other partners and broadcasters.”

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