RLWC2021 and IRL team up on production and international rights sales

RLWC2021, the organising committee of the next edition of the Rugby League World Cup in England, has struck an agreement with International Rugby League which will see the two parties work together on the broadcast production of matches at the tournament, in addition to the sale of global broadcast rights.

An announcement today from the organising committee and the IRL said that the “unique partnership – along with the existing agreement with [domestic rights-holder] the BBC – will be responsible for the production of 61 matches across the RLWC2021 Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair tournaments next year”.

RLWC2021 and the IRL will shortly issue an invitation to tender for a production company, with the two parties stating that “international broadcast partners for the tournament will be announced in the coming months”.

International broadcast rights to the 2017 Rugby League World Cup were sold by the IMG agency. It is understood that RLWC2021 and the IRL will be looking to work an agency (or agencies) to support the 2021 international rights sales process and will issue a request for proposals in due course.

The BBC, which acquired broadcast rights in the UK back in January 2017, has also announced that it will show all 61 matches live on its platforms.

For the last edition of the World Cup, held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in 2017, free-to-air commercial broadcaster Seven held all rights in Australia to the tournament. Seven also served as host broadcaster for international television broadcasts.

Jon Dutton, chief executive of RLWC2021, said: “The content needs of fans are changing radically and becoming more fragmented, and we want to stay ahead of the curve and meet these rapidly evolving demands.

“Our partnership with the IRL allows us to both execute a world-class broadcast production and rights strategy, which will be at the centre of our fan engagement approach and will provide an additional revenue stream for all parties.”

Under the hosting agreement, RLWC2021 is responsible for the operational delivery of the tournament and owns all the associated commercial rights.

Nigel Wood, IRL chief executive, added: “The opportunity to work collaboratively on the broadcast production is a very sensible commercial arrangement. It puts the whole presentation of the tournament in the hands of the organisers.

“Together with the tournament’s domestic broadcast partner the BBC, we can deliver a great experience for viewers of the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments. It also allows the tournament to make a range of content available to broadcasters of every kind around the world.

“Our offer to world broadcasters will be the most flexible and accessible World Cup ever.”

(Additional reporting by Martin Ross)