ITV will show the Rugby World Cup exclusively for the next two tournaments, under the terms of a new deal announced on Saturday.
The two event deal extends ITV’s long partnership with the sport’s showpiece event and will also see the broadcaster show the Women’s Rugby World Cup this year, as well as the World Rugby U20 Championship between 2017 and 2019.
Following ITV’s production and broadcast of the most watched ever Rugby World Cup in 2015, this new deal means all the action from the Japan 2019 and 2023 tournaments will be shown exclusively free-to-air to UK viewers on its channels. Under ITV’s deal, the Women’s Rugby World Cup, to be held this year in Ireland, and the World Rugby U20 Championship will be available for the first time on free-to-air television.
Niall Sloane, ITV Director of Sport: "The Rugby World Cup has become a fixture every four years on ITV, so, following such a successful tournament in 2015, we're delighted to be able to announce we will continue to be the competition's home until 2023. And our new deal kicks-off with exclusive coverage of the Women's tournament in Ireland later this year, which, along with the rights to World Rugby U20 Championship, broadens our association with elite rugby."
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “We are delighted to be partnering with ITV in an exciting long-term deal that will showcase our biggest fifteens events, including Rugby World Cup, Women’s Rugby World Cup and our annual World Rugby U20 Championship, to a free-to-air audience in the UK.
"Rugby World Cup 2015 set new standards of rugby broadcast innovation and delivery, providing a record number of fans in a record number of nations with every unforgettable moment from the most compelling and competitive tournament to date.
"As host broadcaster, ITV was at the heart of the success story, bringing fans closer to what was the best-attended, most-viewed, most-competitive and most socially-engaged Rugby World Cup ever and while this was a highly-competitive process for one of rugby's most prized broadcast rights, we were impressed by ITV's passion for the sport and continued broadcast innovation.
"Great events are built on great partnerships and we are excited to be working with ITV, a long-term supporter of Rugby World Cup, to further fan-experience and rugby growth within the UK over the next eight years.”
Rugby World Cup 2015 was the most widely viewed rugby event ever, the live audience for Rugby World Cup 2015 increased by a factor of 48 per cent over the last edition in New Zealand, with live viewership through 106 broadcasters reaching nearly 724 million homes worldwide.
In the UK, host broadcaster ITV achieved peak audiences reaching 11.5m for England's matches against Fiji, Wales and Australia and the final. The total UK three-minute reach was 40.2 million, while the 15-minute reach was just under 34 million, demonstrating just how Rugby World Cup 2015 captured the imagination across the host nation.
World Rugby Chief Commercial Officer Murray Barnett added: "Securing free-to-air coverage for the Rugby World Cup, Women's Rugby World Cup and U20 on ITV guarantees sports fans in the UK will be able to see all of World Rugby's major events for many years to come. ITV's continued commitment to the pinnacle events on the Rugby calendar are a testament to a sport that continues to attract audiences and fans in record numbers.”