The new United Rugby Championship (URC) is set to be free-to-air for Irish fans under a partnership between RTÉ and TG4.
The public service media organisations have secured broadcasting rights for the new championship, ensuring it will be predominantly free-to-air for Irish audiences for the next four years.
Plans were unveiled yesterday for the new 16-team league that will bring together existing PRO14 teams and South Africa’s top clubs next season.
RTÉ has secured the rights for live television, radio and online coverage of 26 games featuring the Irish provinces in the league, plus additional knockout matches.
Meanwhile, TG4’s Rugbaí Beo will continue to be the station’s flagship rugby programme and will broadcast the 26 games involving Irish provincial clubs and an additional 16 games featuring international club sides.
The championship’s final will also be delivered free-to-air, with RTÉ and TG4 broadcasting it live on alternate years.
RTÉ has also announced that it is working with the championship on the launch of a global OTT service that will allow viewers to watch via the internet, making the championship available to audiences around the world.
The broadcaster said details of the global URC television service will be announced later in the summer.
RTÉ director general Dee Forbes said: "We are really excited to be part of the new United Rugby Championship.
Our provinces get maximum exposure and Irish audiences enjoy the action free-to-air
“RTÉ is delighted to partner with URC and TG4 to ensure that the new Championship and our provinces get maximum exposure and Irish audiences enjoy the action free-to-air.
“It's a team effort from URC, RTÉ and TG4 and a great result for Irish rugby fans.”
Director General of TG4, Alan Esslemont, said: “As public service broadcasters, both organisations understand the importance and the demand from our audiences for comprehensive, innovative, and engaging sports coverage.
“We’re passionate about bringing the best of sporting action to our audiences, and to making that coverage free-to-air and accessible to all fans.”
Martin Anayi, chief executive of the United Rugby Championship, said the new league was excited to launch with the broadcasters.
“Both TG4 and RTÉ have proven track records of delivering marquee international sporting events and they are both innovators in their own spaces,” he said.
“TG4 have added a new dimension to our games with their referee briefings from the dressing rooms and their mic’d up coaching interviews during warm-ups which bring fans behind the scenes.
“RTÉ have experienced big sporting occasions for decades and our decision to partner with them on our OTT player – URC TV – is evidence of a broadcaster that can adapt to market demands and provide a very creative offering for rights holders.”