NBC Sports Group has acquired the exclusive U.S. media rights to the Rugby World Cup through a seven-year partnership with World Rugby, both parties announced today. The agreement includes media rights on all platforms and in all languages to the Rugby World Cups in 2019 and 2023; the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2017 and 2021; the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018 and 2022; and the annual World Rugby U20 Championships from 2017-2023.
"This agreement is the culmination of years of cultivating our rugby portfolio. It began with U.S. collegiate rugby clubs and now, through this unprecedented agreement, includes the greatest tournaments, teams, players and coaches in the world," said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports Group. "Whether it is men’s or women’s, sevens or 15s, pros or amateurs, rugby fans can rest assured that they will have more access to more premier rugby content than has ever been possible in the U.S."
"The USA is one of the fastest-growing markets for rugby participation and fan growth," said World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont. "This exciting and unprecedented deal with one of the world’s most prestigious broadcasters will ensure that more people than ever before in the USA will be able to access the world’s top men’s and women’s fifteens and sevens events. NBC will be the destination for rugby in the USA."
"This deal represents a significant uplift on previous deals in the US, reflecting the ever-increasing stature of rugby within what is arguably the most competitive commercial marketplace for sport," added World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper. "This all-encompassing deal with our friends at NBC is great for fans and great for rugby as we look towards San Francisco’s hosting of Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018."
The agreement begins this spring with the World Rugby U20 Championship 2017 from Georgia, and continues this August with the Women’s Rugby World Cup from Ireland. San Francisco, Calif., will host the Rugby World Cup Sevens in July of 2018, while Japan hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2019. Sites beyond 2019 have yet to be determined. Following is a year-by-year breakdown of the events included in the agreement:
2017: Women’s Rugby World Cup (Ireland); World Rugby U20 Championship (Georgia)
2018: Rugby World Cup Sevens (San Francisco, Calif.); World Rugby U20 Championship
2019: Rugby World Cup (Japan); World Rugby U20 Championship
2020: World Rugby U20 Championship
2021: Women’s Rugby World Cup; World Rugby U20 Championship
2022: Rugby World Cup Sevens; World Rugby U20 Championship
2023: Rugby World Cup; World Rugby U20 Championship
NBC Sports anticipates utilizing NBC, NBCSN, The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app, NBC Sports Gold – NBC Sports’ direct-to-consumer product — and possibly other platforms to provide more comprehensive U.S. coverage of the numerous events included in the agreement than ever before.
All rugby sevens events will be presented by the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, part of a comprehensive content and distribution partnership formed in 2016 by the IOC, USOC, and NBCUniversal. The centerpiece of the partnership is a U.S. linear cable channel, which will launch this summer. Rugby sevens debuted as an Olympic sport during Rio 2016.
NBC Sports Group’s multi-year agreement with World Rugby enhances its already robust slate of rugby programming, which includes exclusive Olympic rugby coverage through 2032, Premiership Rugby, the Rugby Sevens World Series, the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, and the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. NBC Sports Group has also provided coverage of the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups, and exhibition matches in conjunction with USA Rugby that feature the USA Eagles, New Zealand All Blacks, and Qantas Wallabies.