Everything you need to know as Super League confirms free-to-air deal with BBC

Aaron Bower
Paul Wellens, BBC Sport

Rugby League Commercial and the BBC have confirmed a groundbreaking new TV deal which will see the broadcaster expand its coverage of the sport’s biggest competition, the Challenge Cup – plus significantly, a brand new arrangement that will see free-to-air Super League being shown on the channel for the first time.

The BBC won the rights to show Super League from Channel 4, following a successful two years on the channel in 2022 and 2023.

It means the BBC will now show both of the domestic game’s biggest competitions for at least the next three seasons. Here’s everything you need to know about the deal, summed up…

How many Super League games will be shown on the BBC?

A total of 15: but across a variety of platforms. The BBC have committed to showing ten matches live on BBC TV and BBC iPlayer – that includes the World Club Challenge later this month.

Another five will also be shown on the BBC – but on the BBC Sport website and app. Crucially, that initial figure of ten matches includes two play-off games at the end of the season in September and October. That, based on previous years, will be one in each round of the play-offs before the Grand Final.

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When does the Super League coverage start?

It all kicks off next Saturday, February 17 – when Wigan Warriors kick off the defence of their Super League title against Castleford Tigers in West Yorkshire. The game will kick off at 5:30pm – the new time-slot for free-to-air Super League, moving away from the lunchtime slot which Channel 4 occupied over the last two seasons.

What about the World Club Challenge?

That will also be on free-to-air in another groundbreaking move. Channel 4 showed St Helens’ historic win over Penrith Panthers last year and the BBC will follow suit in 2024 – with the Panthers travelling to England to face reigning Super League champions Wigan on Saturday February 24.

What else have the BBC agreed to broadcast?

The Challenge Cup will continue to be shown on the channel, as it has been for decades. But as an extension of the agreement, there will now be more coverage of the women’s and wheelchair competitions alongside the men’s. The wheelchair final will be shown on the BBC, alongside the women’s semi-finals and final: the latter of which takes place at Wembley alongside the men’s final.

In another first, the BBC Sport website and app will carry selected highlights from the Women’s Super League, including the semi-finals and Grand Final, and the Wheelchair Super League Grand Final.

The big question: how much have the BBC paid?

A question which is likely to be asked of the senior figures at RL Commercial at Thursday’s Super League launch. Love Rugby League has been told the BBC HAVE paid to win the rights – but it may only cover things like production costs. It seems as though like with the Channel 4 deal, there will be no money that hits the clubs’ bank accounts.

However, the Channel 4 deal was struck to open the door for Super League to be showcased on free-to-air and make a case to broadcasters that it had merit. It certainly seems that has proven to be the case, with the fact another broadcaster has now won the bidding rights.

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