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ITV enters Six Nations fray under BBC rights sharing deal

UK public-service broadcaster the BBC and commercial broadcaster ITV have agreed a new six-year deal under which they will share rights to the Six Nations from next year’s edition of the national team rugby union tournament.

Under the deal, running from 2016 to 2021, the BBC has lost its exclusive rights to the Six Nations, with ITV set to cover the competition for the first time. The BBC’s existing rights deal, worth £40m (€56m/$63m) per year, was set to expire in 2017.

Financial terms of the new agreement were not disclosed, but the Daily Telegraph newspaper said it would be worth £50m per year.

The BBC and ITV will show the home fixtures of three of the Six Nations teams each for the duration of the six-year contract.

Under the terms of the deal, each year ITV will show live coverage of England, Ireland and Italy home matches and Scotland, Wales and France away matches. The BBC will show live coverage of Scotland, Wales and France home matches and England, Ireland and Italy away matches. 

The new deal will ensure the Six Nations remains on free-to-air television in the UK, with pay-television broadcaster Sky having also been reportedly interested in the rights.

Niall Sloane, ITV director of sport, said: “As ITV prepares to bring viewers exclusive, free-to-air live coverage of the Rugby World Cup later this year, we're delighted to be strengthening our ties with the game by bringing audiences the first class, live action and unique atmosphere of the RBS 6 Nations from next year.”

BBC director of sport, Barbara Slater, added: “It’s great news for fans of the Six Nations that the championship will be staying on free-to-air television. It’s a very special competition and our viewing figures from this year prove just how popular it is with audiences.”