New RFL broadcast deal offers clarity at last
23 January 2019 - Written by Zack Wilson
The Rugby Football League this week confirmed that a new broadcast deal is in place for the 2019 season, for teams outside of Super League.
The new structure offers an improved amount of Championship coverage, and is especially good news for fans of Toronto Wolfpack.
Games from the Championship play-offs will be shown live on Sky Sports, with the Championship Grand Final – now effectively the Million Pound Game - being the showpiece event.
Significantly, Toronto Wolfpack have also secured permission to produce live coverage of their own games.
These games will now be shown live on Sky Sports in the UK, and distribution deals for territories elsewhere in the world are expected to be confirmed very soon.
The RFL have also secured permission from Sky Sports to be able to live stream Championship and League One games on the OurLeague app.
Previously, the terms of the broadcast arrangement had caused confusion about whether or not teams outside of Super League could live stream matches.
“This is fantastic news for all the fans and clubs of the Betfred Championship and League One with both competitions being broadcast more than ever before,” said Mark Foster, head of the RFL’s commercial department.
“It couldn’t have happened without the co-operation and support of Sky Sports and the Toronto Wolfpack and we wish to thank both organisations for helping us to tell the story to millions in the UK and around the world of what will be a fantastic 2019 season for the Betfred Championship and League One in 2019.
“We saw with the reaction to Sky Sports' live coverage of the £1M Game between the Wolfpack and London Broncos in Toronto last autumn what a massive boost that was to the profile of the Betfred Championship.
“So we are delighted that Sky Sports are committed to showing this year’s £1M Game, to determine who earns promotion to the Betfred Super League in 2020.
“And with Our League now able to extend last season’s coverage of Betfred League One into the Betfred Championship, members will be able to follow the story of the season with live matches every week and also the magazine programme which we believe the competitions deserve.
“With the Summer Bash in Blackpool, and the 1895 Cup, there’s so much to relish in 2019 – starting with the first round of seven matches in the Betfred Championship on Super Sunday, February 3, and now featuring live coverage of the York-Toronto match.
“We are proud of the development of the Our League Membership Scheme and its digital platforms, which now has almost 90,000 members just over a year after its launch. It also allows us to provide regular coverage of the Women’s Super League and the community game – so members can look forward to a feast of Rugby League this year.”
It looks as though some sense has at last prevailed, and that teams outside Super League can now take advantage of some of the opportunities for better coverage that streaming affords.
Sky have also budged from their previously intransigent position about allowing Championship sides to live stream games.
The really significant news is that Toronto have been allowed to bear the production costs of televising games, and to sign their own broadcast deals.
That could give an indication of what the future of rugby league broadcasting will look like, with individual teams signing their own international distribution deals.
That will surely interest many clubs in Super League, and opens up a whole host of possibilities for astute club owners.