RFL in talks over selling TV rights for Championship and League 1 as Super League extends Sky Sports partnership

The Rugby Football League has welcomed Super League’s new television agreement with Sky Sports and revealed it is in “positive” talks with other broadcasters about a deal of its own.

Betfred Super League on Tuesday announced a two-year extension to its deal with Sky, which will kick in when the current five-year agreement runs out at the end of the year.

Under the new agreement, Sky will show 66 live Super League matches throughout the regular season and have first pick of the weekly rounds and the play-offs.

The satellite broadcaster will also retain exclusive rights to the Magic Weekend, Grand Final and the World Club Challenge, which will next be held in 2022.

The new deal does not include the Championship and League 1, leaving the RFL free to sell the rights to broadcast those fixtures, and a spokesman confirmed it is talking to a number of other television companies, including Premier Sports.

The spokesman said: “The RFL welcomes the confirmation of the extension of the sport’s long-running relationship with Sky Sports, having supported Super League Europe in their negotiation of this deal.

“We are in dialogue with SLE regarding the deal’s impact on the RFL and our other member clubs.

“We’re in positive conversations with a number of broadcasters re the Championship and League 1.”

READ: Interim chairman Ken Davy on his vision for Super League moving forward

The new Sky deal extends the partnership between the broadcaster and Super League to the end of 2023, a period of 28 years.

The agreement ends a long, drawn-out period of negotiation started in 2020 by executive chairman Robert Elstone and concluded by his temporary replacement Ken Davy.

The original deal, struck in 1995 with Rupert Murdoch to pave the way for a switch to become a summer sport, was worth £87million spread over five years and the latest agreement will signify another drop in the value of rugby league’s premier division.

The new deal is thought to be worth around £25m a year, compared to £40m a year at present.

After the 12 Super League clubs take their share, it could leave little for the RFL, which gave up the right to conduct the broadcast negotiations when Super League clubs broke away from the governing body in 2018, and the clubs in the second and third tiers of the professional pyramid.

However, the RFL can now negotiate its own deal and also has its own streaming service, which has proved to be a boon for behind-closed-doors fixtures.

Also, as part of the new deal, Sky have agreed to make some of this season’s fixtures available via free-to-air Sky platforms in an effort to increase audiences.

Davy, who stepped into the breach caused by the departure of Elstone in March, said: “It’s great to be able to extend our excellent partnership with Sky Sports.

“Sky have been with us since the start of the competition, back in 1996, and are now an integral part of the Super League family.

“Together our partnership has seen Super League achieve record viewing figures in recent years.

“We’ve worked closely throughout the current pandemic and every step of the way Sky have been immensely supportive.

“Together we have managed to give fans an exceptional amount of coverage in these unprecedented times.

“Super League looks forward to working with Sky Sports on the exciting free-to-air opportunity, growing our audience and allowing more fans than ever before to see our great game.”

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