BBC fears losing another big sporting event with Six Nations rugby already up in the air


The BBC fears losing both Six Nations rugby and cricket

Jack Otway

By Jack Otway

Published: 23/11/2023

- 09:38

The BBC fear losing rights to both Six Nations rugby and cricket, according to reports.

The broadcaster recently suffered a 30 per cent drop in revenue, with Barbara Slater telling the culture, media and sport select committee that 'incredibly difficult' decisions would have to be made.

Six Nations rugby has been aired by the BBC for a number of years and, at present, they share the rights with ITV.

However, there are fears the Six Nations may become too expensive in the foreseeable future.

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Slater said: “To be clear, we need a well-funded BBC if we are going to be able to continue to afford sports rights.

“Sports rights in the UK have more than doubled in the past decade.

"BBC’s income in real terms has gone down 30 per cent.”

She added: “When we bang on the door for rights, which we want, we have to bring a package that’s about amplification, it’s about using all our platforms.

"The truth is we’re probably not going to be the highest bidder, and it will come down to individual governing bodies as to how they balance that reach and revenue.

“And I think that’s why we’ve been in so many partnerships.

"And, indeed, we’re in a partnership with the Six Nations and ITV, who actually have the lion’s share.

"And I think what we’ve been doing is covering Wales and Scotland because of the importance of the nations to the BBC.

“The Six Nations, like anything, we will have to assess the affordability at the time.

"Because it is very difficult for the BBC, on that trajectory of income, to continue to afford everything that we have.

"But that’s not a decision that’s being made at this moment in time.”

Yet The Times say that, in addition to the Six Nations, the BBC are also concerned about relinquishing the rights to the cricket as well.

The Beeb are sweating on the future of showing Test-match highlights, T20 summer internationals and Hundred matches.

Channel 4 is set to compete with the BBC to show cricket, with the two rivals poised to go head to head.

The ECB is looking to boost their own funding and believe a highlights package is the best way to do that.

The ECB's deal for live coverage is currently fixed, with Sky Sports set to show matches until 2028.

When it comes to the BBC, however, the future of highlights on the channel is very much up in the air.

The BBC currently broadcasts Test highlights, two men’s T20 internationals, one women’s T20 game and up to ten Hundred matches.

Yet Channel 4 has screened cricket in the past and it's possible they'll manage to outbid the BBC and bring the sport to fans on their channel instead.

Meanwhile, ITV chief Niall Sloane has admitted his own channel may face a fight to keep hold of exclusive rights to the Rugby World Cup.



The BBC have shown Six Nations rugby for a number of years


“I don’t think we’ve ever done a deal where there wasn’t speculation, and probably well-founded speculation, that it could, in some or in whole, go to a pay operator," he said.

"Less so with the Rugby World Cup because we’ve only done two deals in my time at ITV.

"I think they recognise that if you’re going to grow the game, something like the Rugby World Cup should be on free-to-air but there’s no guarantee of it whatsoever.”

When quizzed on the Six Nations. he added: “We would like to bid for that property.

"It just depends whether they want to sell it to pay television.

BBC cricket

The BBC fear losing the rights to cricket highlights


"We discussed this earlier. It was mooted several months ago.

"But it’s always mooted when there’s negotiations on the horizon.

"So, we haven’t spoken in earnest. But we will, in the new year, to both entities, Six Nations and Rugby World Cup.

"But they’ve been great competitions for us in the past and we hope so going forward.”

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