NBC Sports Group acquires exclusive US media rights to biggest events

World Rugby and NBC Sports Group announce details of an unprecedented seven-year partnership for exclusive rights to present some of international rugby's biggest events, including Rugby World Cup, Women's Rugby World Cup and World Rugby U20 Championship.

World Rugby and NBC Sports Group have announced details of an unprecedented seven-year partnership for exclusive rights to present the world’s biggest international rugby events, including Rugby World Cup and Women’s Rugby World Cup.

The deal, the biggest of its kind for rugby rights in the USA, will cement NBC’s status as the destination for rugby in a nation where record participation and fan growth has anchored rugby as one of the hottest properties in the US sports market.

The exclusive rights feature the world’s most prestigious 15s and sevens events, including Rugby World Cup 2019 and 2023, Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 and 2021, Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 (in San Francisco) and 2022 and the annual World Rugby U20 Championship from 2017-23.

Coast to coast programming, coupled with NBC’s award-winning multi-platform approach, will ensure an unprecedented platform for rugby to reach and engage more sports fans in a nation where the total fan-base has grown to more than 40 million, driven by rugby sevens’ highly-successful debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, another event presented by NBC across multiple platforms in the USA.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “The USA is one of the fastest-growing markets for rugby participation and fan growth and 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 15s and sevens events. NBC will be the destination for rugby in the USA.”

World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper added: “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. 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.”

NBC Sports Group President of Programming Jon Miller said: “This agreement is the culmination of years of cultivating our rugby portfolio. It began with US collegiate rugby clubs and now, through this unprecedented agreement, includes the greatest tournaments, teams, players and coaches in the world.

“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 US.”

NBC Sports anticipates utilising 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 US 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 centrepiece of the partnership is a US linear cable channel, which will launch this summer. Rugby sevens debuted as an Olympic sport during Rio 2016.

The multi-year agreement enhances NBC’s extensive commitment to rugby programming, which includes exclusive Olympic rugby coverage through 2032, Premiership Rugby, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship and the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. NBC Sports Group also provided coverage of Rugby World Cup 2011 and 2015 and USA’s domestic test matches, along with matches featuring New Zealand, Ireland and Australia in the USA.