PRO14's new TV deal brings cash boost but most games not free
The Guinness PRO14 yesterday confirmed their new three-year TV deal, with Premier Sports set to show all 152 games per season and ensure that one contest per round remains on free-to-air.
When the Belfast Telegraph originally reported in March that BBC Northern Ireland would no longer be the home of Ulster Rugby's games, there were concerns that some clashes would end up not being broadcast.
Those fears were put to bed, though, with news that Premier Sports will add a second channel, allowing them to broadcast every game from the competition all in high definition.
Premier Sports, whose sister channel Free Sports will carry the weekly free game, costs £9.99 a month, while there is an annual subscription at £99.
They have said the PRO14 will be considered a flagship product and they will establish a highlights package and magazine show, as well as longer pre- and post-match analysis.
While still dwarfed by the mega-deal on offer in France to the Top 14, it is believed that the pact will see PRO14 clubs receive a significant cash boost with the sides now to bank more than £2m per season.
The PRO14's chief executive Martin Anayi said: "The partnership with Premier Sports will be a watershed moment for the Guinness PRO14, our clubs and their supporters.
"By better resourcing our clubs through increased central revenue, we will ensure sustainability so they can further invest from the ground up to drive success on and off the pitch so they can retain supporters and attract new fans of all ages.
"Now rugby fans will be able to watch every game in the Guinness PRO14 which offers them more action than ever and that's a terrific achievement.
"The bidding for broadcast rights showed us just how much interest there is in the Guinness PRO14 since our expansion into South Africa and the significantly increased revenue will allow us to invest back into our clubs, a figure which has doubled over the last three years."
The next question will be how the deal influences kick-off times, with Ulster Rugby known to favour Friday night games.
"Our new broadcasters have control over their schedules and have less restrictions compared to network TV," said the PRO14.
"This means that our broadcasters will be able to work closely with our teams to help provide kick-off times and dates that are better suited to them and also more convenient to their supporters."