Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

TV deal speculation 'conservative'

Jonny Wilkinson lifts the Heineken Cup for the final time; worldwide television rights for the competition's replacement are now out to tender

European rugby chiefs stand to net "significantly more" than £14million in the most lucrative worldwide broadcasting rights deal for continental competition yet, Press Association Sport understands.

Distribution company IMG Media has won the tender to broker global broadcasting rights for the European Rugby Champions Cup.

Industry insiders initially slapped a £14million total on the potential windfall to the European game - but sources have told Press Association Sport the return is expected to be far greater.

"It is too soon to speculate on a final number, as the packages have yet to be sold of course," one source said.

"This deal will certainly outstrip the previous worldwide television arrangements though, and early indications suggest the return will be significantly more than that £14million figure."

Press Association Sport understands IMG is confident of pulling the sales package together quickly, able to play on the number of world stars embroiled in top-end European competition.

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has signed a four-year deal with IMG Media to sell the broadcasting rights outside the UK, Ireland and France for the inaugural Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

Executive committee member Bruce Craig hailed EPRC for securing the agreement, admitting it will significantly boost competition revenues.

"This new partnership with IMG comes quickly on the back of the conclusion of the UK TV rights contract with BT Sport and BSkyB," said Craig.

"IMG share our ambition and vision for these tournaments, and we look forward to working with them to ensure European professional club rugby reaches its potential in both established and emerging markets.

"We are now heading into the October kick-off in a very strong commercial position and expect another significant announcement later this month when the competitive tender process to secure the broadcast rights for France is concluded."

Craig helped broker the peace deal between Sky and BT Sport that cemented the formation of the Champions Cup, the competition to replace the Heineken Cup.

IMG will market live and highlights rights across all platforms for the 67 Champions Cup matches, the play-offs, 19 Challenge Cup clashes - and three games from the third tier Challenge Cup qualifying tournament.

Senior vice president Michael Mellor said IMG Media is excited to help build the new European rugby venture from the outset.

"This is the dawn of a new era in professional club rugby in Europe and it is an exciting proposition for us to be involved in from the very beginning," he said.

"We believe that our vast worldwide network of offices, along with our experience in selling rugby, places us in a great position to grow awareness of the top two European club tournaments across all media platforms."

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