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Pay-television broadcasters in contention for UK Rugby World Cup rights

World Rugby, the global governing body of rugby union, has said it would consider striking a deal with a pay-television broadcaster for the UK rights to the 2019 World Cup, which is being hosted by Japan.

World Rugby this week launched the broadcast rights tender process for the next edition of its showpiece national team tournament in the UK and Irish markets.

The deadline for offers has been set for Friday and incumbent UK partner ITV, along with fellow commercial broadcasters Channel 4 and Channel 5, and public-service broadcaster the BBC, are said to be interested in the rights.

However, UK newspaper The Times said UK pay-television broadcasters Sky and BT Sport are also interested, along with beIN Sports – despite the latter currently not holding a presence in the UK market.

The World Cup final is reserved for free-to-air television only under the UK’s ‘crown jewels’ list of sporting events, but World Rugby can consider offers from pay-television broadcasters for the tournament itself.

“It would be a big deal (to sell the rights to pay television),” World Rugby’s head of commercial, broadcast and marketing, Murray Barnett, told The Times. “Any recommendation we make will have to have sound reasoning behind it.

“Revenue from the World Cup is important, but it is also a chance once every four years to grow the game and exposure is very important. We don’t have a predetermined view where the nexus is. We want to see what the commitment is like.”

World Rugby has issued bidding information to interested parties in both the UK and Ireland, and bids for the 2019 World Cup as a stand-alone or coupled with the 2023 tournament will be considered. The rights-holding broadcaster for each market will be announced later this year.