The English rugby club is returning to free-to-air television after agreeing a new deal with ITV. There was widespread disappointment at the start of this season when the popular Channel 5 Highlights show was canceled but Premiership Rugby has now negotiated a new partnership with ITV until the end of the 2023-24 season.
There’s a caveat for viewers hoping to see full games on ITV every weekend, with the deal only including four live matches this season plus the final on ITV4. However, Premiership officials are delighted that their grand final, for the first time in the history of the competition, will be shown on live free-to-air TV in conjunction with BT Sport’s highly regarded coverage.
In each of the next two seasons, however, seven matches, including the final, will be broadcast by ITV, with organizers apparently acknowledging that Channel 5’s abrupt disappearance of the sport was a mistake that had to be rectified. It was the first time in 14 years that Premiership rugby was not available on terrestrial television, with Craig Doyle and Martin Bayfield presenting their first ITV highlights show in 2007. The new weekly highlights show on ITV4 is now led by David Flatman and Topy Ojo.
Premiership Rugby’s new chief executive, Simon Massie-Taylor, praised the deal as “great news for the league, our clubs, the supporters and profile of rugby in England” and now hopes it will be a springboard to a more widespread interest in sports
“Our ambition is to grow the game and make Gallagher Premiership Rugby available to as many people as possible,” said Massie-Taylor. “BT Sport have done a great job of building the premier Premiership Rugby TV audience and the ITV partnership allows us to extend our reach to the households of millions of other rugby fans. This season, our average match audience on BT Sport has increased by 30% year over year, demonstrating the potential.”
Last season’s final between Harlequins and Exeter Chiefs was one of Twickenham’s most exciting days, with Massie-Taylor aiming to make the 2022 final the most watched game in the tournament’s history. “We believe we can achieve that with the match being shown on both ITV4 and BT Sport,” he added. “It is also crucial for us to have a weekly highlights program that is accessible to millions of people. This allows us to show the best of Gallagher Premiership rugby to the widest possible audience.”
In ITV’s first live game, Sale Sharks will host Premiership pacers Leicester Tigers on January 30.