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Channel 4 continues rugby union rights strategy with IRFU deal

UK commercial broadcaster Channel 4 has further grown its rugby union portfolio with the acquisition of rights to Ireland’s autumn internationals.

The four-year deal, announced yesterday, will run from 2018 to 2021. It was agreed by the Irish Rugby Football Union, the governing body of rugby union in Ireland.

Channel 4 made its first move for rugby union in March, acquiring free-to-air rights in the UK to Europe’s top club competition, the Champions Cup. That deal is for four seasons, from 2018-19 to 2021-22, and includes nine live matches per season.

In May, Channel 4 struck a deal with the Welsh Rugby Union for live rights to three summer Test matches played by the national team. Wales played South Africa, and two matches against Argentina.

This November, Ireland will play three autumn internationals, against: Argentina, the USA and New Zealand. In 2019, when no autumn internationals are played, Channel 4 will have rights to two of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup warm-up matches (against Italy and Wales). In 2020, Ireland will play autumn internationals against Australia, South Africa and one other team; and in 2021, Ireland will play New Zealand, Argentina and one other team.

In December, the IRFU sold its autumn international rights in Ireland over the same four years matches to public-service broadcaster RTÉTV Sports Markets understands Channel 4 will have non-exclusive rights in Ireland.