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Six Nations unions come to agreement on broadcast rights to pave way for CVC investment

Six Nations

All six member unions of the Six Nations have agreed to unify their media rights in a significant advance towards CVC extending its influence in northern hemisphere rugby.

The private equity firm is expected to acquire a 15 per cent stake in the Six Nations for around £300m, to add to its portfolio in the English Premiership and PRO14.

This comes after the RFU, WRU and four other powerbrokers which form the northern hemisphere’s most prestigious competition agreed to unify their broadcast rights.

In doing so, they stand to net a surge in their revenue from selling the rights to subscription services such as Sky, BT Sport or even Amazon Prime, who can rival current rights holders BBC and ITV and place the free-to-air viewing of the Six Nations under threat.

The agreement by the unions comprises the Men’s, Women’s and Under-20 tournaments, with the five-year deal agreed with BBC and ITV set to expire next year.

Further to TRP’s report in last week’s edition with chief executive Benjamin Morel, a Six Nations statement confirmed a ‘commercial collaboration’ would come into existence.

“The Six Nations Council has today announced a significant strategic agreement to further its sporting and commercial collaboration alongside its existing co-ordinated approach to the Men’s Six Nations Championship,” the statement read.

“From next season, all six Unions and Federations will be unifying the operations and media rights of the Women’s Six Nations, the U20 Six Nations, respective Autumn Internationals and other international tests alongside the Men’s Six Nations.

“Formal engagements for media rights in the UK and Italy will commence shortly with other engagements involving other territories to follow in due course.”

Amazon Prime could very well be another commercial giant to enter the fray, after moving into the European sport broadcasting market to attain rights to the English Premier League with a package worth £90m.

In 2017, the company headed by the world’s wealthiest man Jeff Bezos, went behind the scenes in the All Blacks camp to produce a documentary series following the team throughout the British & Irish Lions series.

The first steps which could take the Six Nations closer to building rugby’s profile beyond its own European bloc.

Morel added in the statement: “By working closely together and ensuring a combined approach to our overall operations and harmonising of our media rights, the Six Nations will be able to accelerate the development of the game.

“In doing so, we will remain true to our heritage while looking to attract and reach new audiences. This has been one of our key strategic priorities for some time and we are very pleased to make today’s announcement.”

BBC and ITV currently split broadcasting duties in the tournament in a package worth £450m over a five-year stretch. A deal which has worked for both rights-holders and the Six Nations itself with record viewing figures being achieved.

But CVC’s pursuit of a stake in the Six Nations would be the latest gain in its attempt to package the broadcast rights for the Premiership, PRO14 and the Six Nations into a single, lucrative deal.

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