Guinness Premiership sign ESPN deal

ESPN have added the Guinness Premiership to their expanding portfolio of live sport after agreeing a three-year deal with competition organisers Premier Rugby.

The new agreement comes into force at the start of next season and will see ESPN broadcast 43 matches exclusively live, including one semi-final and the Premiership final.



Sky Sports will show 26 live games, more than doubling the number of televised Premiership matches from 33 this season to 69.



ESPN have taken over the broadcasting arrangement Premier Rugby had originally struck with Setanta before the Ireland-based channel folded last summer.



Premier Rugby's original joint-agreement with Setanta and Sky Sports was worth £54million.



ESPN entered the British sports broadcasting market in June, plugging the gap left by Setanta's demise.



The Disney-owned station was awarded the rights to 46 Barclays Premier League matches that were forfeited by Setanta.



Last week, ESPN signed a £35million four-year deal to broadcast the FA Cup and today they added the Guinness Premiership to their sporting roster.



The agreement also provides internet rights for use on ESPN's digital media, such as ESPNScrum.com.



Jon Varney, commercial director of Premier Rugby said: "This deal with ESPN secures a partnership with one of the world's leading broadcasters, who become yet another blue chip supporter of club rugby in England.



"Starting next season, our new television deals mean we have doubled the number of live televised Premiership matches, which will further raise the profile of the sport in the UK and overseas and will allow our clubs and sponsors to derive even greater exposure and value.



"It also means supporters have more chance to see their team on live television."



ESPN already broadcast the French Top 14 and recently announced an agreement to show archive matches and footage from each of the six Rugby World Cup tournaments to date on ESPN Classic.



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