Sony Pictures Networks India has acquired the exclusive media rights in the Indian subcontinent for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Sony will show live coverage of the tournament in India on pay-television channel Sony Ten 2 and on-demand OTT service SonyLIV.
As well as India, the deal includes exclusive television and digital rights in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives.
The 2020 Rugby World Cup, the first to be held in Asia, kicks off on Friday with hosts Japan playing Russia in Chofu, Tokyo.
SPN also had rights in India for the last edition of the tournament, in 2015. SPN’s chief revenue officer for distribution and head of sports business Rajesh Kaul said: “Our telecast of the Rugby World Cup 2015 showed us that rugby has a passionate following in India and we are bringing this tournament back on our channels to ensure all our viewers have access to marquee tournaments on our network.”
World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said: “We are delighted to announce our partnership with SPN to broadcast the Rugby World Cup live in a number of territories across the Indian subcontinent, which is such an exciting and important region for the future growth or our game. In India alone we have witnessed unprecedented interest in rugby being ignited in this country of 1.3bn people, and a great sense of momentum building, as demonstrated by the record-breaking turn-out and political support for the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour last year.”
The press release announcing the deal said interest in the sport is growing in India, quoting research by Nielsen that indicates a fanbase of 23m, that is 43-per-cent female.
The 2020 Rugby World Cup in Japan is the first to be held in Asia. World Rugby has been finalising its last media rights deals on the continent in recent months, including a deal with pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports that covered nine East Asian territories: Cambodia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Singapore. At the same time, BeIN acquired rights for the tournament in the Middle East and North Africa.
Media rights for the 2019 Rugby World Cup are sold globally by the IMG agency on behalf of Rugby World Cup Limited, the competition’s commercial rights-holder. RWCL is a sister company of World Rugby, rugby union’s world governing body.