EPCR launches OTT platform for markets without TV deals

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), the organising body of rugby union’s Heineken Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup, has created an over-the-top streaming platform to service fans in countries where a broadcast deal has not been struck.

Ahead of the rescheduled 2019-20 club competition quarter-finals this weekend, the Lausanne-based body has launched the epcrugby.tv platform, which is powered by StreamAMG, the live video and OTT services provider.

The service will not be available in markets where broadcast deals are in place.

These include France (where the rights-holders are France Télévision and beIN Sports), Ireland (Virgin Media Television), the UK (BT Sport and Channel 4), Malta (Go), Portugal (Sport TV), Spain and Andorra (Telefónica), sub-Saharan Africa (SuperSport) and USA (NBC Sports).

Fans can purchase Champions Cup matches individually for €2.99 ($3.55) per match or €1.99 for single Challenge Cup matches. Season passes for the remainder of the 2019-20 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup seasons are priced at €11.99 and €9.99, respectively, with a combined season pass costing €17.99.

Coverage is taken from the world feed, which is provided in English language.

The EPCR has recently taken more control of its international media-rights sales and deals have been extended with the incumbent rights-holders in the likes of sub-Saharan Africa, Spain and the US.

While the EPCR has decided to adopt a direct-to-consumer approach in strategic international markets, the list of countries in which the OTT offering is available is likely to be trimmed in due course as negotiations with certain broadcasters are finalised.

Last season, Champions Cup rights deals were also in place with DAZN (Austria, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and Switzerland), Cyta (Cyprus), ESPN Sur (Latin America), RugbyPass (Australia and southeast Asia), Rugby TV (Georgia), Spark (New Zealand), SportsMax (Caribbean) and TV Arena Sport (Balkans).

The EPCR’s broadcast deals in France, Ireland and the UK all run until the end of the 2021-22 campaign, while a four-year international rights sales contract was signed with the RDA agency from 2018-19 onwards.

However, SportBusiness Media understands that the deal with RDA has since been ended and the EPCR is selling its international rights in-house.

Commenting on the launch of the direct-to-consumer platform, Vincent Gaillard, the EPCR chief executive, said today (Friday): “We are celebrating the outstanding history of the tournaments this season on official digital channels and this OTT platform is another sign of our digital evolution.

“Broadcast platforms for EPCR tournaments have been enriched and optimised by a strong balance of linear and OTT platforms in different territories and epcrugby.tv now gives fans the chance to see the games in markets where they previously didn’t have that chance.”

StreamAMG already works with the Pro14, having been recruited by the cross-border rugby union competition to put in place its international OTT platform last year.

The EPCR typically derives around 85 per cent of its revenues from broadcast rights fees, with the remaining 15 per cent stemming from sponsorship monies and ticketing.

The final stages of the 2019-20 editions were postponed to September and October in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Format changes for the 2020-21 editions of the club competitions were recently introduced by EPCR, including elements that the organising body is looking to introduce during the next commercial rights cycle.