NBC Sports Group Inks Deal for U.S. Rugby World Cup Rights Through 2023

The reportedly eight-figure agreement covers media rights on all platforms to 2019 and 2023 events

In a major boon to the profile of rugby in the U.S., NBC Sports Group has acquired exclusive U.S. media rights to the Rugby World Cup through a seven-year partnership with World Rugby. Covering rights on all platforms and in all languages to the Rugby World Cups in 2019 and 2023, the agreement is worth an eight-figure sum and includes a profit-sharing element, according to Sportcal. In addition to the 2019 and 2023 Rugby World cups, the deal covers the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2017 and 2021, the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018 and 2022, and the annual World Rugby U20 Championships from 2017 to 2023.

“This agreement is the culmination of years of cultivating our rugby portfolio. It began with U.S. collegiate rugby clubs and now, through this unprecedented agreement, includes the greatest tournaments, teams, players, and coaches in the world,” says Jon Miller, president, programming, NBC Sports Group. “Whether it is men’s or women’s, sevens or 15s, pros or amateurs, rugby fans can rest assured that they will have more access to more premier rugby content than has ever been possible in the U.S.”

NBC Sports Group televised the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups and already had an agreement in place to carry the 2019 edition in Japan. The new deal adds the as-yet-unallocated 2023 tournament to the Peacock’s portfolio.

“The USA is one of the fastest-growing markets for rugby participation and fan growth,” says World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont. “This exciting and unprecedented deal with one of the world’s most prestigious broadcasters will ensure that more people than ever before in the USA will be able to access the world’s top men’s and women’s 15s and sevens events. NBC will be the destination for rugby in the USA.”

The agreement begins this spring with the World Rugby U20 Championship 2017 May 31- June 18 from Tibilisi, Georgia, and continues in August with the Women’s Rugby World Cup from Ireland. San Francisco will host the Rugby World Cup Sevens in July 2018; Japan, the Rugby World Cup in 2019. Sites beyond 2019 have yet to be determined. Following is a year-by-year breakdown of the events included in the agreement:

  • 2017: Women’s Rugby World Cup (Ireland), World Rugby U20 Championship (Georgia)
  • 2018: Rugby World Cup Sevens (San Francisco), World Rugby U20 Championship
  • 2019: Rugby World Cup (Japan), World Rugby U20 Championship
  • 2020: World Rugby U20 Championship
  • 2021: Women’s Rugby World Cup, World Rugby U20 Championship
  • 2022: Rugby World Cup Sevens, World Rugby U20 Championship
  • 2023: Rugby World Cup, World Rugby U20 Championship

“This deal represents a significant uplift on previous deals in the U.S., reflecting the ever increasing stature of rugby within what is arguably the most competitive commercial marketplace for sport,” adds World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper. “This all-encompassing deal with our friends at NBC is great for fans and great for rugby as we look towards San Francisco’s hosting of Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018.”

NBC Sports expects to use NBC, NBCSN, The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app, NBC Sports Gold (direct-to-consumer product),  and possibly other platforms to provide more-comprehensive U.S. coverage of the numerous events included in the agreement than ever before.

All rugby sevens events will be presented by The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, part of a comprehensive content and distribution partnership formed in 2016 by the IOC, USOC, and NBCUniversal. The centerpiece of the partnership is a U.S. linear cable channel, which will launch this summer. Rugby sevens debuted as an Olympic sport at Rio 2016.

The World Rugby deal adds to NBC Sports Group’s existing rugby-rights portfolio, which include exclusive Olympics rugby coverage through 2032, Premiership Rugby, the Rugby Sevens World Series, the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, and the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. In addition to coverage of the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups, NBC Sports Group, in conjunction with USA Rugby, has carried exhibition matches featuring the USA Eagles, New Zealand All Blacks, and Qantas Wallabies.