Wales

BBC and ITV bid wins Six Nations TV rights until 2021

Six Nations Wales v England Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The new deal will run for four years from 2016

The BBC and ITV have won the rights to broadcast rugby's Six Nations competition.

WRU chairman and Six Nations council member Gareth Davies said the need to keep the games on free-to-air channels was a "strong motivator".

All Wales' home matches will be shown live on the BBC, along with France and Scotland home matches. ITV will screen England, Ireland and Italy home games.

The new six-year joint deal will run from the 2016 season.

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Media captionBBC Wales director Rhodri Talfan Davies said the deal had "secured the future of Welsh rugby for the next six years"

Mr Davies said it would deliver "the very best for Welsh rugby".

It follows the BBC agreeing to forego its exclusive rights to the tournament two years early.

A new deal was originally not due to kick in until 2018.

The broadcasters joined forces to keep the event on free-to-air television, following interest from pay TV operators including Sky Sports.

The RBS 6 Nations confirmed the new deal which also covers BBC radio - Radio Wales and Radio Cymru commentary of all Wales games is included -and online.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The deal in summary

Rhodri Talfan Davies, director of BBC Wales, said: "The Six Nations Championship has a unique place in the hearts of Welsh rugby fans and we're thrilled that the BBC will continue to offer unbeatable coverage of Wales matches for another six years."

He said the BBC had worked closely with ITV over a number of months.

He added: "We've put our audiences first and secured the right deal for Wales, for Welsh rugby and for viewers. A win-win-win."

Niall Sloane, ITV director of sport, said: "As ITV prepares to bring viewers exclusive, free-to-air live coverage of the Rugby World Cup later this year, we're delighted to be strengthening our ties with the game by bringing audiences the first class, live action and unique atmosphere of the RBS 6 Nations from next year."

The bid has previously been reported to be worth £50m a year to the game.

Last week, Welsh Culture and Sports Minister Ken Skates warned it could be "very dangerous and damaging" if the tournament was lost to satellite channels.

The Six Nations matches which are broadcast by the BBC will also be shown in Welsh on S4C.

S4C chief executive Ian Jones said: "We're delighted to be able to continue to work with BBC Cymru Wales whose fantastic team will produce coverage for S4C".

The Six Nations attracts 24 million viewers across the UK - or 41% of the population.

In Wales, the audiences are proportionately higher, with 1.9 million watching or 68% of the population.

The peak audience figure in Wales alone for the Six Nations opener with England earlier this year was 1.12 million.

The BBC will show 70% of Wales' games live under the new agreement.

Analysis by Huw Thomas, BBC Wales arts and media correspondent

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The cultural significance of rugby to Wales was part of the case

Many had prepared themselves for the loss of the Six Nations to Sky when the tournament's organisers revealed in January that they were open to moving the event to a subscription channel.

And while Sky, along with BT Sport, have snapped up many rugby rights in recent years, the special significance of the Six Nations to Welsh audiences led to a sustained public campaign to keep the event on a free-to-air channel.

This deal appears to satisfy the politicians and petitioners, while reducing the BBC's financial commitment to the tournament.

I'm told that the cultural significance of the game to Welsh audiences helped to secure Wales's home games for the BBC, while ITV satisfies its audiences and advertisers by capturing the more lucrative England internationals at Twickenham.

Radio Wales and Radio Cymru commentary of all Wales games is also included in the deal.

The deal was welcomed in Wales.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats had organised a 5,000 signature petition against a pay TV deal and leader Kirsty Williams said: "I'm delighted that we've helped persuade the Six Nations bosses that our rugby needs to stay on free TV.

"That family tradition of sitting down and watching the rugby together that many of us hold dear looks to be no longer under threat."

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