BBC retains Challenge Cup broadcast rights until 2016

Wigan celebrate their 2011 Challenge Cup triumph

The BBC has agreed a new contract to remain as the principal broadcaster for rugby league's Challenge Cup for the next five years.

The deal ensures the final of sport's premier knockout competition will be televised live on BBC One until 2016.

Fourth and fifth-round games, quarter-finals and semis will also be shown.

Rugby Football League chairman Richard Lewis said: "The visibility and profile afforded by the sport's presence on the BBC and iPlayer is hugely important."

The 2011 final between Wigan and Leeds was watched by an average TV audience of 1.61m people, a 19% increase on the corresponding figure from 2010.

Viewing figures for the new-look BBC Super League Show, which has been screened nationally on BBC Two in regular slots throughout 2012, are more than double what they were in 2011.

"We look forward to working with the BBC as they showcase all the excitement and drama from the Carnegie Challenge Cup and Stobart Super League," said Lewis.

"The Challenge Cup has a rich heritage and I am delighted that the competition's long association with the BBC is to continue."

BBC director of sport Barbara Slater added: "The BBC has been the proud broadcast partner of the Challenge Cup for over half a century, so we're delighted to be continuing our long and successful relationship with the RFL.

"Rugby League forms a key part of the BBC's rights portfolio and through our new four-year deal we're looking forward to ensuring this prestigious and fiercely contested tournament reaches an ever-growing audience."

This year's fourth round draw will take place on Monday (26 March, 2050 BST) in the Club Lounge at holder Wigan's DW Stadium, the main feature of an hour-long rugby league special on BBC Radio 5 Live.