The BBC has renewed its agreement to broadcast the RBS Six Nations championship up to and including 2013. The current deal, which covers television, radio and online platforms, was to run to 2009 but has been renewed and extended.
The early renewal came with two more tournaments still to run (2008 and 2009) and is reportedly worth £160 million over the four-year term.
“We’re used to television audiences edging down because of the sheer volume of competition from the rest of the media,” said Roger Mosey, director of BBC Sport. “But the Six Nations has bucked the trend. We’ve set new records in both of the two most recent years, and there’s been a picture of growth since the whole of the tournament came back to the BBC (in 2003).”
This 2007 tournament was one of the most exciting in Six Nations history and saw TV audiences increase to their highest level for eight years, with an average of 4.3 million viewers per match.
Mosey said that a total of just under 30 million saw some of the 2007 tournament, and the peak audience – 8 million for Ireland’s win over England at Croke Park – is still higher than any figure achieved up to the quarter-final stage of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
The 2008 Six Nations tournament will begin on February 2 with Ireland hosting Italy at Croke Park and England at home to Wales at Twickenham, before defending champions France face Scotland at Murrayfield the following day.