BBC secures Six Nations rights until the end of decade
LONDON - The Six Nations Rugby will be on the BBC until the end of the decade following a new deal signed today by BBC Sport and the Six Nations committee.
The new deal extends the BBC's current contract as exclusive broadcaster of the Six Nations for a further four years until 2010. The deal covers not only the television rights but radio and online services as well.
The BBC said that audiences for the Six Nations rose 30% last year and this year's championship has seen further audience growth with average UK audiences per match reaching 4.1m, up from 2.8m two years ago when the competition was scattered between three broadcasters.
Last Saturday's Scotland v England game was watched by more than 8m viewers bringing in one of the championship's biggest audiences.
Peter Salmon, BBC director of sport, said: "We promised that we would use the BBC's unparalleled radio, TV, online and interactive services to boost interest in rugby -- and we have delivered.
"We really value the Six Nations' continued faith and partnership, which is a model for how we wish to work with rights holders going forward. The BBC and the Six Nations are committed to building on this rapidly growing interest in rugby across the British Isles."
The agreement comes in the same week as the BBC lost the rights to the Boat Race.
Despite that loss the BBC has secured a number of recent sporting deals over the last six months including Wimbledon, Moto GP and UK athletics, all to the end of the decade, and the Rugby League Challenge Cup last week. It has also recently secured Premiership rights until 2006 for 'Match of the Day', which will return to screens in August.
Earlier this month, BBC Broadcast unveiled its Six Nations marketing push starring England and Lions player Matt Dawson and Scotland's Chris Paterson. The trails focus on the skill that is involved in playing rugby union, featuring one body part or rugby skill for each player. The promos also feature Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll and Wales captain Colin Charvis.
The BBC and the Six Nations have also further committed to developing rugby at a grassroots level. The BBC and the home nations are taking this year's "RBS 6 Nations - Give it a go" campaign to get more rugby played in 100 new schools in the UK, as a template for further work together.
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