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World Rugby chief keen to strike ‘balance of eyeballs and revenue’ in UK TV deal

27 Sep 2023 3 minute read
Wales players celebrate following victory in the Rugby World Cup 2023, Pool C match at the OL Stadium in Lyon, Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

World Rugby says it will consider all options in its search for a UK broadcast partner for the next two World Cups.

The existing deal with ITV expires after France 2023, raising the possibility that some matches in future tournaments could be screened by streaming or subscription services.

Only the World Cup final must be shown free-to-air and World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin insists there is a balance to strike between reaching the largest possible audience and maximising revenue which is then used to grow the sport.

“The media landscape for sport and entertainment is changing more rapidly than ever. It’s probably changed more in the post-Covid era than at any time in recent history,” Gilpin said.

“On specific market-by-market analysis, we’ve got to look at the conditions and opportunity in every market and then those markets collectively.

“In the UK, as here in France, we have incredibly long-standing, loyal and really important supporters.

“TF1 here and ITV in the UK have been with us on the Rugby World Cups for decades and are helping us reach audiences that are unprecedented and comparable to any global sport.

“We have to do an analysis in each case and our starting point in all of those cases is how do we make the great action we are seeing available to most people?

“That always leans towards free-to-air broadcasting. The men’s and women’s World Cups have always started from free to air.

“The challenge then is how do we do that in a way that also means we generate enough revenue to invest in the game?

“It’s that balance of eyeballs and revenue, market by market and the holistic picture.”

Bunker review system

Speaking at World Rugby’s weekly World Cup press conference, Gilpin claimed that the bunker review system was working well.

Confusion has reigned over the officiating of dangerous tackles, from the initial on-field decision-making by referees to the use of the newly adopted bunker review system and citing protocols.

An illegal hit by Tonga wing Afusipa Taumoepeau against Scotland on Sunday that was punished with only a yellow card is the latest in a succession of controversial calls by officials.

“The strive for consistency and understanding is ongoing as a complex sport because of the collision area,” Gilpin said.

“Hopefully everyone has seen that there is clearer communication now on the field and therefore more broadly about the decision made in the bunker as it comes back to the referee.

“We’ve seen a number of incidents where the foul-play review officer in the bunker is reviewing more angles than television is showing at home or people in the stadium are seeing.

“We think there’s great consistency there and the bunker is working well. One of the reasons for the bunker was to take that decision into a place where it could be made in a more consistent, rational manner and we think that is working.”

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9 months ago

“Balance of eyeballs and revenue”.
So … flogging it off to Sky then. Or Pay To View.

I’m no longer interested in watching sport. Money and ego ruined it years ago. This mealey mouthed way of normalising the idea of no more “free” rugby to the masses just reinforces that I was right to opt out from the whole cycle of being milked of cash by millionaire ball chasers years ago.

It’s up to you shirt worshipping anthem singers of course. But if you tolerate this …

9 months ago

I like ITV have it but they are not doing any favours in a 4k world. Some matches were even SD and HD quality has been a bit hit and miss. Next tournament must have the caveat 4k down the pipe. But you can guarantee other channels will be dong the sums and they will have deeper pockets.

9 months ago

The rugby world cup should be protected as free to air the same way as the football world cup is protected

David Pearn
David Pearn
9 months ago
Reply to  Rob

But we don’t need reconstruction’s with jonny Wilkinson showing how to kick a drop goal, that had to be the most cringe worthy bit of rugby presenting ever.

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