RFL to expand Rugby League’s broadcasting

RFL Chief Commercial Officer Mark Foster believes the Our League App’s Championship coverage can be the catalyst for more valuable Sky Sports broadcasts in the future.

The governing body has confirmed that 35 matches will be shown on their free-to-air App in the opening months of the new season, with 15 of those being in the Championship.

RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer revealed last year that the RFL was in talks with Sky about their Championship coverage for the 2020 season after encouraging viewing figures on their Summer Bash and play-off coverage.

However, the sport’s main broadcast partner will not be showing weekly action from the second-tier at the start of the season, instead giving the governing body permission to broadcast games, despite Sky holding the broadcast rights.

While having games shown on Sky is the ultimate goal, Foster is encouraged by Sky’s interest in the competition, and he believes Our League coverage could drive them to show more action in the months that follow.

“We’re still in conversations with Sky,” Foster said.

“But clearly they got good figures for the play-offs and the Summer Bash.

“What creates those figures are events, and to make those events bigger and better we need to tell the story of the entire season. So we’re doing that with the help of Sky who are allowing us to show games on a weekly basis, as well as coverage of games from League 1, Women’s Super League and both Challenge Cup competitions.

“Sky wants it to be a success as much as we do, so making sure there’s more awareness of the product and the competition is what a lot of our conversations have been around, and we believe this is a good way to do that.”

Two games are set to be shown each Sunday from February to May.

“If you take that step back and look at what our aims were for Our League, it was about given an enhanced, personalised experience to the customers, to understand them better and provide them a new platform to consume Rugby League. The fact we’ve done that more or less from the start is something we have to say is a major success.

“It’s been recognised in areas we wouldn’t normally reach. UEFA are aware of it and have asked us about how we’ve made it work, and it’s not often that we reach those places.

“As a sport we couldn’t stand still, we knew that. Now we have to grow and enhance it further. It’s one piece of a much bigger jigsaw that we have to get right with the World Cup and renewal of the broadcast deal coming up in 2021.