ERC and Sky Sports have extended their broadcast partnership for television coverage of Europes premier club rugby tournament until the end of the 2009/2010 season.
The extension will see Sky Sports continue to offer exclusive live broadcast coverage of Heineken Cup matches in the UK, and will extend to include exclusive live broadcasts rights in Ireland from the start of the 2006/7 tournament.
Sky Sports will broadcast up to seven live matches during each of the six Heineken Cup Pool weekends and will show all of the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals live.
In Wales, S4C has secured rights to an extensive highlights package, which will allow the Welsh language station to broadcast extended highlights of Heineken Cup matches throughout the tournament for the next five seasons.
In Ireland, RTÉ will continue to have rights to broadcast live Munster and Leinster home Pool games for the 2005/2006 season. For the following four seasons, RTÉ have secured rights to full delayed broadcasts of all games involving Irish teams (home and away) in the Pool and knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup. RTÉ will also have rights to a comprehensive highlights package, which will allow RTE broadcast coverage of all Heineken Cup matches.
The new four year deal with Sky Sports, which will include the European Challenge Cup tournament, together with partnerships with S4C and RTÉ, will generate important increased revenues for ERCs six shareholder nations to help with the development of the professional game.
Commenting on the Sky Sports extension and new broadcast partnerships, Derek McGrath, ERC Chief Executive said, Sky Sports have made a major contribution to the development and increased profile of the Heineken Cup tournament since they came on board in 2003. The comprehensive nature of their coverage, which saw sixty games broadcast last season, combined with their level of expertise and quality of coverage, provides an excellent platform for the Heineken Cup to continue to grow for the benefit of the Clubs, supporters and all our stakeholders.
RTÉ are an excellent partner to the Heineken Cup and have provided wonderful coverage of the tournament in Ireland over the past number of years. We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with them in the seasons ahead as they will now be able to broadcast all games involving Irish teams in the Heineken Cup.
The increased exposure in Wales through the S4C highlights package, together with RTEs additional coverage will be a major benefit to the tournament and to our stakeholders in these markets. We look forward to enhancing these relationships in the years ahead.
Vic Wakeling, Managing Director of Sky Sports said: "The status of the Heineken Cup continues to grow. It was always seen as the Champions League of Rugby and it has not disappointed. We are delighted that our coverage has helped to spread the message of the competition and the high standards achieved by clubs and players.
"When we started, two years ago,, we promised three live matches every weekend. We have been delivering up to seven live matches, plus extensive highlights. Every British and Irish club has been seen live, and this coverage will continue in the seasons ahead."
The broadcast partner extensions follow the announcement in January, by ERC, that Heineken will continue as title sponsor of the tournament until 2009.