FA Cup set to be free-to-air only in UK with ITV joining BBC from 2021
The FA Cup, English soccer's historic knockout cup competition, is set to be shown exclusively on free-to-air television in the UK for the first time in over 30 years from 2021, with commercial network ITV set to join public-service broadcaster the BBC as a domestic rights-holder.
ITV is closing in on a four-year contract with England's Football Association under which it will become the dominant rights-holder, showing up to 30 games per season, according to the UK's Times newspaper.
The BBC renewed its deal to 2024-25 on 19 March, and will show up to 18 FA Cup matches live each season in the new cycle, its biggest commitment to the FA Cup. There will be greater coverage of the competition's early stages, with up to six live matches from across the first and second rounds.
The BBC and ITV will both show the FA Cup final, mirroring the agreement between the two organisations for the Fifa World Cup final. The BBC and ITV shared coverage of the FA Cup final between 1955 and 1988.
The BBC presently shares rights to the FA Cup with pay-TV's BT Sport in a three-year deal that expires at the end of the 2020-21 season. The duo will show this Saturday's final between Manchester City and Watford.
The BBC replaced ITV as the free-to-air broadcaster of the FA Cup ahead of the 2014-15 campaign.
The BBC's live coverage of the FA Cup fifth round tie between Chelsea and Manchester United on 18 February is the most-watched domestic match of the season, with an audience of 8.1 million people.
This is the first season of the FA's six-year international rights contracts for the FA Cup with Pitch International responsible for the sale of rights to in western Europe, the Middle East and North Africa in an agreement worth close to $300 million, and the IMG agency having a deal worth $730 million for the rights in the rest of the world.