Future Rugby World Cups might not be shown on free-to-air television, as World Rugby considers its options.
- World Rugby is preparing to auction off the rights to the next two Rugby World Cups, beginning with the 2027 edition.
- Only the final must be shown on free-to-air television; there’s no legislation to stop the rest of the World Cup going behind a paywall.
- ITV has provided coverage of the Rugby World Cup since 1991. S4C provides coverage in Wales.
The growth of streaming means World Rugby might be tempted to put games behind a paywall in the UK for the first time, according to media reports this week.
World Rugby has already struck deals with subscription services elsewhere in the world and is considering ways to increase income in the UK.
Until now, World Rugby has opted for increased reach on free-to-air TV instead of increasing revenue through pay TV deals. But comments by World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin to the Telegraph this week indicate the growth of streaming has focused minds.
He noted the presence of popular streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime meant there was an opportunity to reassess World Rugby’s strategy. Commenting on free-to-air reach versus pay TV or streaming revenue he spoke of the “balance of eyeballs and revenue, market by market and the holistic picture.” The growth of streaming services has made them more widely available in UK households than Sky or Virgin Media.
Only the Rugby World Cup final would need to be shown on free-to-air TV in the UK going forward, in order to comply with legislation on listed sports events that must be shown free-to-air.
Women’s Rugby World Cup
World Rugby has committed to make the next Women’s Rugby World Cup free-to-air in the UK in 2025. Further Women’s events could also be offered to a streaming service.
ITV’s current broadcast rights deal expires at the end of the currently ongoing Rugby World Cup.