BBC secures Challenge Cup TV rights up to 2016

Published Mar 21 2012, 16:30 GMT  |  By

Rugby Challenge Cup

© PA Images

The BBC has agreed a new television rights deal that will see it continue as the principle broadcaster of the Carnegie Challenge Cup for the next five years.

Under the new agreement, rugby league's oldest and most prestigious knockout competition will remain on the BBC until 2016.

The BBC will also broadcast live matches in the fourth and fifth rounds of the competition, along with the quarter-finals and semi-finals for the duration of the contract.

RFL chairman Richard Lewis said: "The Challenge Cup has a rich heritage and I am delighted that the competition's long association with the BBC is to continue.

"The visibility and profile afforded by the sport's presence on the BBC and the BBC iPlayer is hugely important and we look forward to working with the BBC as they showcase all the excitement and drama from the Carnegie Challenge Cup and Stobart Super League."

BBC coverage of the 2011 Challenge Cup final between Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos was watched by an average television audience of 1.61m last year, up 19% on the 2010 final.

Viewing figures for the new-look BBC Super League Show on BBC Two are also said to be already double this year on the 2011 stats.

The new Challenge Cup deal is a boon for the BBC after it lost the rights to major horse racing events including the Grand National and Ascot to Channel 4. The BBC has struggled to compete following a 15% cut to its budget for sports rights bidding.

BBC director of sport Barbara Slater said: "The BBC has been the proud broadcast partner of the Challenge Cup for over half a century so we're delighted to be continuing our long and successful relationship with the RFL.

"Rugby League forms a key part of the BBC's rights portfolio and through our new four-year deal we're look forward to ensuring this prestigious and fiercely contested tournament reaches an ever growing audience."