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Rugby union - 10 May 2022
France Télévisions, the public service broadcaster in the country, has reached an agreement in principle to retain its rights to rugby union’s Six Nations Championship until 2025.
The agreement with Six Nations Rugby, the organizer and rights distributor of the European rugby union competition, will see the broadcaster hold exclusive rights to all matches in the men’s and women’s tournaments from 2023 to 2025.
The deal will also give France Télévisions exclusive rights to show France’s 2022 Autumn Nations Series matches against Australia, South Africa, and Japan.
The deal builds on the broadcaster’s five-year rights deal for the Six Nations tournaments that expired after this year’s edition, which was won by France.
Ben Morel, chief executive of Six Nations Rugby, said: “France Télévisions have been an incredible long-standing partner to the Six Nations.
“I look forward to continuing our successful partnership and bringing our men’s and women’s Championships to even greater heights.”
In March, France Télévisions announced it had attracted an average viewership of 8.98 million for France’s victory against England to lift the Six Nations trophy in Paris - the highest French audience for the tournament in the last 10 years, according to French industry analysts Médiamétrie.
The broadcaster’s live coverage of the national team’s five matches at this year’s tournament drew an average audience of 6.64 million viewers.
Laurent-Eric Le Lay, director of sports at France Télévisions, said: “Thanks to this agreement, French fans will be able to continue enjoying the exploits of French teams for free.
“Our channels and digital offers will be put into place so that people can enjoy the entirety of these competitions through live coverage, highlights, interviews, and reports.”
The agreement follows similar free-to-air deals Six Nations Rugby struck in the UK, with the BBC and ITV, and in Ireland, with RTÉ and Virgin Media Television.
Rights in Italy are held by pay-television broadcaster Sky Italia, which replaced US media giant Discovery in a two-year deal struck last year.
Last year, French commercial broadcaster TF1 won domestic rights to the 2023 Rugby World Cup hosted by France in a deal that will see it cover all games exclusively live and free-to-air.
Meanwhile, the World Rugby governing body is reportedly holding discussions today (May 10) with key stakeholders over a proposal to introduce a new biennial global competition to the international calendar.
According to UK newspaper The Times, representatives from World Rugby, Six Nations, and Sanzaar, the alliance covering rugby union’s major southern hemisphere nations, are poised to meet for talks in Dublin, Ireland, over a north versus south competition to be held every two years starting from 2026.
The report said World Rugby is looking for the respective rugby bosses to commit to the new competition by the end of the week, with a formal vote to be held in November.
The competition, which will not be held in World Cup or British & Irish Lions years, is an alternative to the Nations Championship which was proposed in 2019 but rejected by the players’ union over welfare concerns.
If sanctioned, the competition’s top division will feature 12 teams, the Six Nations - England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales - representing the north, while Australia, Argentina, Fiji, New Zealand, South Africa, and Japan will make up the southern teams.
A second division, meanwhile, will feature Samoa, Tonga, USA, Canada, Uruguay, Chile, Namibia, Georgia, Romania, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands.
In the top division, each northern-hemisphere team would play a southern-hemisphere rival once, either home or away.
The Six Nations teams will play away games in July, before hosting the southern-hemisphere teams in November. After the six fixtures, the top-two teams will meet in a grand final, while there will also be two relegations playoffs against leading teams from the second tier.
There are some scheduling issues to iron out before the competition can be confirmed, including the fact there are only three official Test weeks currently reserved in November.
A finals day would necessitate four weeks, which will require player release agreements with French and English clubs from the Top 14 and Premiership, respectively.
Other items to be discussed and agreed upon include revenue sharing and how other teams including the USA, Tonga, Samoa, and Georgia could eventually be added to the competition.