(Photo credit to Michael Franken) NEW YORK CITY-- June 17, 2010 – Universal Sports Network, NBC Sports, and the International Rugby Board (IRB) today announced a partnership that will bring to U.S. audiences unprecedented national television and digital media coverage of the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup tournaments.
The announcement was made by Universal Sports CEO David Sternberg and Mike Miller, CEO and Secretary General, International Rugby Board. The official launch was supported by USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville and the local New York rugby community in the build-up to the Churchill Cup finals set for Saturday, June 19 at Red Bull Arena.
“This is a huge step in the right direction for USA Rugby,” Melville said. “A major broadcast partner will create a number of new opportunities for the sport, raising rugby’s profile in America, as well as allowing supporters to follow the Eagles on their road to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.”
Universal Sports, the preeminent destination for Olympic-related sports programming, and NBC Sports will provide full, multi-platform coverage of all 48 matches during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and the 2015 World Cup in England. Two matches in each tournament, including the Finals in 2011 and 2015, will air either live or on a same-day delay on NBC Sports. Live and delayed match video will also be accessible at www.universalsports.com, and on Universal Sports’ mobile platforms. Universal Sports’ and NBC Sports’ match coverage will feature a studio pre-game show, halftime and post-game shows, as well as several other production enhancements, and will be offered in high definition.
“This is a very significant rights acquisition for Universal Sports, especially given the growing popularity of rugby around the world and in America,” said Sternberg. “We are delighted to be partnering with the IRB for the Rugby World Cup and other top events, and we look forward to showcasing global rugby, at its highest level, for our audiences across all of our platforms—television, online and mobile.”
“Today’s announcement represents a significant milestone in the development of Rugby in the United States,” said Miller. “NBC and Universal Sports are globally renowned for quality broadcast delivery of major sports events in the United States and their considerable experience and passion for sport will deliver the widespread platform for Rugby World Cup to truly capture the hearts and minds of American sports fans.”
The Rugby World Cup is one of the largest and most avidly watched sporting events in the world, drawing an estimated 4.2 billion viewers worldwide during the last championship in France in 2007. The competition next year begins on September 9, 2011, when host New Zealand meets Tonga in Auckland. The tournament field consists of 20 different nations, likely including the United States, who will compete over the course of a month for the coveted Webb Ellis Cup. New Zealand and Australia jointly hosted the first edition of the Rugby World Cup in 1987 while South Africa is the defending champion from 2007.
The agreement extends Universal Sports’ focus on rugby, which will debut at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since the beginning of June, the network has really built up their rugby coverage. They have teamed up with USA Rugby and televised the U.S. College Sevens Invitational and the six-country Churchill Cup tournament. The final two matches of the Churchill Cup, featuring both the U.S. national team and the England Saxons, will air live from Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, this Saturday, June 19 beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.
ABOUT UNIVERSAL SPORTS: Universal Sports, a partnership between NBC Sports and InterMedia Partners, LP, serves as the preeminent multiplatform destination for Olympic-related sports programming on television and online. Universal Sports is available in more than 63 million homes, including all of the nation’s top 10 DMAs: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. Recent expansion includes launches in Boston, Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Denver, Portland, and Jacksonville. Go to UniversalSports.com for a complete list of TV markets. Major world championship and Olympic qualifying events found on Universal Sports range from track and field, skiing, swimming, gymnastics, marathons and cycling, to volleyball, rowing, triathlon, fencing, speed skating and martial arts. UniversalSports.com delivers an immersive experience via live and on-demand competition coverage, interaction with top athletes through blogs and in-depth access to Olympic sports news and information year round. For more information on the availability of the Universal Sports 24-hour television channel, please visit UniversalSports.com.
ABOUT IRB & RUGBY WORLD CUP: Rugby World Cup is the world’s third largest single sports event and the 2011 tournament in New Zealand will be broadcast to a potential audience of over 4 billion in 200 countries. All tournament surpluses generated by commercial revenues underwrite a range of major funding initiatives aimed at increasing global growth and stimulating participation. In total the IRB will invest over £153 million during the period 2009-2012.
ABOUT USA RUGBY: USA RUGBY, founded in 1975, is the national governing body for rugby and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Rugby Board (IRB). The organization is responsible for the development of boys, girls, high school, collegiate and club rugby programs, as well as the nation’s rugby coaches, referees, administrators and all of its national teams that represent the U.S. in international competitions. As part of this development, USA Rugby hosts a number of courses, clinics, National Championship events and international matches throughout the year. For more information, please visit www.usarugby.org.