By Paul Jones
The TV contract for the Guinness Pro14 looks likely to change hands again next year after current rights holders Premier Sports cancelled their existing deal with production company Sunset+Vine.
With the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic hitting organisations on and off the field, subscription service Premier Sports has opted to take its production of the tournament in-house.
That suggests they will struggle to hold onto the TV rights when their three-year deal ends with a number of other broadcasters including Sky Sports, S4C, ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC considering their options for when the sport returns and the bidding begins.
Subscription channel Premier Sports took over the Pro14’s broadcasting rights for the 2018/19 campaign on a three-year deal and paid just over £5million to do so.
They committed to showing every tournament game live.
In its second season, the broadcaster has seen its revenues hit hard after the coronavirus pandemic led to the indefinite suspension of all rugby in March.
Premier Sports costs just under £10-a-month over Sky or Virgin services in the UK.
In Wales alone the company needed to get 30,000 subscribers to make ends meet but have got nowhere near that number. The figure is believed to be less than 10,000.
Premier – who have never released their subscription figures to the public – has used renowned production specialists Sunset+Vine to produce its coverage in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland since winning the rights to the tournament.
It is understood that last week Premier terminated their three-year contract with Sunset+Vine with immediate effect.
Premier will instead take their production of games in house in order to save money. It is understood they have no concerns over the quality of their broadcast diminishing and still want to continue working with the Pro14 beyond the length of their current deal.
A spokesperson for Premier Sports said: “The team at Sunset+Vine have been brilliant throughout our time working with them, but a decision has been taken to move in a different business direction and we are looking forward to continuing producing and broadcasting the Guinness Pro14.”
A Sunset + Vine spokesman said: “I can confirm Premier Sports have terminated this contract for force majeure.” The Pro14 did not respond when contacted for comment.
The cancellation of Sunset+Vine’s contract with Premier does not impact the production of Pro14 games in the Republic of Ireland as they are done by Eir Sport.