News | February 24th, 2022
It is as if Premiership Rugby read my article last month regarding Rugby Union and its current decline in attendances and financial stability. Okay, perhaps not! Nevertheless, in an interesting and exciting new turn, recently, Premiership Rugby has announced that it will be launching a new streaming service that will allow fans to watch live coverage of every match not already shown by domestic rights-holders.
In my article I explained how Rugby Union is losing commercial deals, spectators and that financial support is not being filtered down to all levels of the game. Now of course, this one deal will not solve all of Rugby’s ongoing challenges, however it will certainly provide a solid foundation to build upon.
PRTV (Premiership Rugby Television) will launch on February 25th, allowing users to access games not currently being aired by BT Sport or ITV. This service, similar to the English Football League (EFL) deal iFollow streaming site, will be available domestically alongside all international markets apart from the USA, Canada and Australia. A match pass is priced at £4.99, allowing fans to watch any game of their choice. A round pass will cost £6.99 and will include all fixtures over the course of a weekend. PRTV Live will launch as a pilot service and will be available directly via the Premiership Rugby mobile app. Matches will be available to purchase via the league’s website from February 21, with PRTV to be available on desktop devices from March 25.
BT Sport’s current deal with Premiership Rugby is worth £110m. Running until 2024 the deal provides an average of £36.7m per season, granting access to 80 live matches per season. Further, ITV recently announced a deal to show live Premiership matches and a weekly highlights programme until the end of the 2023-24 season. This means the Premiership final will be shown on free-to-air television for the first time. The Premiership had been without free-to-air coverage since the expiry of commercial broadcaster Channel 5’s four-season deal at the end of the 2020-21 campaign.
Simon Massie-Taylor, chief executive of Premiership Rugby, said: “PRTV Live signals another step in our journey to grow the game and make Gallagher Premiership Rugby accessible to as many rugby fans as possible.” As mentioned, this will address the challenge of poor spectatorship within Rugby. Through making the game more accessible via broadcast, not only current fans but potential fans and budding participants will be able to enjoy the game, and perhaps more importantly learn and grow the sport to a larger audience. Subsequently, the PPV business model will generate increased revenue for Premiership Rugby, in which I would hope is allocated accordingly in a fair and comprehensive manner to not only the top teams within the first division, but facilities and infrastructure to the lower divisions alike.
This development is most certainly a positive and encouraging advancement for the future of not only Premiership Rugby, but Rugby as a whole. Making sport more accessible whether it is Rugby or any other sport for that matter is fundamental to the longevity and development of a sport in all aspects whether they are for commercial, participation or financial reasons. I just hope the Premiership Rugby division view this expansion as a trigger to fuel the progression from the top down to local divisions where the support and resources are needed the most to keep the sport alive.
Image – Premiership Rugby