Aviva Premiership
BT deal includes free-to-air proposal
ESPN Staff
September 27, 2012
Leicester Tigers chairman Peter Tom, Leicester press conference, Welford Road, Leicester, England, November 7, 2007
Leicester Tigers chairman Peter Tom has revealed some Premiership games may be available free-to-air next season © Getty Images

The 'ground-breaking' rights deal recently struck between Premiership Rugby and BT Vision reportedly includes scope for some games to be broadcast free-to-air.

BT's £152m investment in English rugby's top flight secured exclusive rights to the Aviva Premiership as of next season and also sent shockwaves through the game with an additional element including European games the subject of intense debate.

Exact details of the deal are unknown but Leicester Tigers chairman Peter Tom has revealed to the Leicester Mercury newspaper that some of the proposals put forward by BT Vision are for several games to appear on a free-to-view channel - with ITV thought to be a leading contender to extend their current Premiership highlights output and offer the sport a significant boost in terms of potential audience while also acting as a promotional tool for BT's premium rate output.

"BT have come into this with their eyes wide open," said Tom. "And for Premiership Rugby, this deal is a ringing endorsement of our product with proposals that are very sensible across the board. There are proposals for some free-to-air rugby, and you suspect that may go through.

"With all of the different ways to view sport these days on phones and tablets and various social media, we feel that we have chosen a great partner in BT, who will be going out of their way to provide the best possible platform to show and promote the sport."

On confirmation of the deal, Premiership Rugby and BT promised fans that they would be able to, "catch all of the excitement of the Aviva Premiership in one place" with the current broadcast set-up encompassing both ESPN and Sky Sports - both of which are subscription-based services.

A Premiership Rugby spokesman refused to confirm there was a free-to-air element to the latest broadcast deal but hinted it was likely to be discussed in the future.

"The £152 million deal with BT is great news for the whole of European rugby. There are many exciting elements to it, some of which haven't been confirmed yet because of the nature of commercial negotiations, but these include an exciting new Community Programme, a marketing campaign for rugby and an infrastructure upgrade of all 12 Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs," he said.

"Over a million people each week see Premiership Rugby on free TV with our Sunday evening highlights show on ITV and as part of our agreement with BT we have retained the rights for this to continue. Any suggestion that games will appear on free to air TV is subject to further discussion."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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