Rivals Sky, BT Agree To 'Pick Deal' To Broadcast European Club Rugby Next Season
The new broadcasting agreement between rivals BT and Sky Sports for the new European club competitions to replace the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cups next season "can be revealed," according to Gavin Mairs of the London TELEGRAPH. The "pick deal" agreed as part of the compromise between the two broadcasters "will hand BT first choice" on three matches involving clubs in the Premiership for each of the six rounds of pool matches in the new elite tournament. Sky Sports, the long-standing broadcaster of the Heineken Cup, "will then have first pick for three matches of games not involving English sides, most likely the games involving high-profile games between the French Top 14 and Irish provinces or Welsh regions." The remainder of the games "will be divided between the two broadcasters using a complex formula that takes into account how many games each weekend involve English sides." The new deal, which Rugby Football Union CEO Ian Ritchie "has played a key role in brokering," reflects the fact that BT Sport had signed an exclusive deal with the Premiership clubs for their games in Europe next season while Sky Sports also had a new contract in place to broadcast the Heineken Cup. That coverage of the knockout stages "will be shared equally between the two broadcasters," with each expected to show two quarterfinals each and one of the semifinals. The final, which is "poised to be brought forward from its traditional late May date to the first weekend of that month next year," will be broadcast by both BT Sport and Sky Sports (TELEGRAPH, 3/26).