Reports emerged earlier this week that the Six Nations Championship is currently accepting bids for the next round of broadcasting rights. Online streaming service Amazon looking like a potential bidder.
While relatively new to sports broadcasting, Amazon has previous experience showcasing tennis and in December broadcast its first-ever Premier League encounter.
It will be one of a number of pay-TV networks who will bid for the Six Nations TV rights according to The Times.
Sky Sports and BT Sport are other high profile broadcasters thought to be eyeing up a move to take the Six Nations of terrestrial TV after organisers refused to rule out a bid from the broadcasting giants.
BBC and ITV came together in 2015 in a never-before-seen deal that saw the two broadcasters share the rights to the Six Nations Championships and thus keep all of the games on free-to-air TV.
However, despite the deal being worth £90 million a year, the two terrestrial broadcasters could struggle to compete with Sky Sports, BT Sport or indeed, Amazon.
Fans are worried that putting the prestigious rugby tournament behind a pay-wall will impact negatively on viewing figures, similar to Cricket who suffered a downturn in audience and participation following their decision to remove the sport from terrestrial TV.
If the decision goes ahead it will prove to be a huge controversy as England’s clash with Scotland in round two of this year’s tournament attracted 8.4 million viewers on BBC One.
All Six Nations matches have been free-to-air since 2002 with the tournament protected as a “crown jewel” of a nation’s sport in France meaning it is not possible to sell the Six Nations to a pay-TV broadcaster.
Unfortunately, this does not apply to Ireland. Both RTÉ and Virgin Media are now in danger of missing out as the Six Nations is not guaranteed to be broadcast live on free-to-air TV.
State legislation protects only deferred coverage of the Six Nations. Currently, the protected programmes in Ireland free-to-air TV include:
- Summer Olympic Games
- All-Ireland Hurling and Football Finals
- Republic fo Ireland’s home and away qualifying games in the Euros and FIFA World Cup
- The opening games, semi-finals and final of Euros and FIFA World Cup
- Ireland’s Rugby World Cup games
- The Irish Grand National and the Irish Derby
- The Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse Show
- All-Ireland ladies Gaelic and Camogie Finals