Rugby League keen for new Premier Sports deal

THE RFL is optimistic about maintaining a presence on Premier Sports for the Championship next year after the broadcaster reversed the sale of the channel to the Scandinavian broadcaster Viaplay, which was completed less than 18 months ago.

The Viaplay Group paid £30 million for Premier Sports in July 2022. Subsequently, however, financial pressures led it to announce a new strategy that would focus on its core business in Scandinavia and the Netherlands.

“We have agreed to sell our British operations back to the previous owners SSBL Ltd (Premier Sports). This is in line with Viaplay Group’s strategy and plan that we presented in July,” a Viaplay spokesperson said.

The sale of Premier Sports is subject to regulatory approval. Until then, subscribers in Britain can continue to watch the same content on Viaplay’s platforms, the spokesperson said.

It means that Premier Sports (Viaplay) content will continue to be delivered via Sky and Virgin, as well as Prime, while the company is also planning to roll out its own streaming service in early 2024.

In a statement, Premier Sports said it would be returning to the UK in early 2024, having agreed to take back control of the business, subject to regulatory approval.

The contract for Premier Sports to broadcast the Championship expired at the end of the 2023 season, with no alternative currently in place for next year.

Under Viaplay, it looked unlikely that it would continue to broadcast Rugby League.

But that could now change and the RFL will pursue what has now emerged as an unexpected opportunity.

“We have maintained a good relationship with Premier Sports since they were the Championship broadcaster and we are aware of the recent changes regarding Premier Sports’ business in the UK,” said an RFL spokesperson.

“We will be looking to discuss Rugby League content into 2024 with them.”