By David Williams
The future of the current broadcast deal for the United Rugby Championship is in doubt after Viaplay announced it is ending its coverage in the UK.
The Nordic broadcaster currently shows every match in the tournament, including all games featuring the four Welsh regions.
But after rumours of financial struggles, the company have decided to downsize their operation and quit a number of territories, including the UK.
The company’s CEO, Jorgen Madsen Lindemann, revealed on Thursday that Viaplay is planning a retrenchment strategy, stating, “We will exit Poland, Baltics, UK, US, and Canada to re-focus on the Nordics and Netherlands [and will] exit in the form of disposal, partnering or winding down the businesses.”
A wee message for @BBCScotland
Now that “ViaPlay is to end its coverage of sport in the UK, which includes broadcasting Scotland men’s matches” it’s now time for BBC Scotland to step in and buy the rights.
Can they afford it? You bet they can.
📻 The yearly budget for BBC… pic.twitter.com/5Xk31BR5qB
— Ewen Cameron (@EwenDCameron) July 20, 2023
The move is expected to result in lay-offs for around a quarter of its staff and significant financial losses.
At present, Viaplay are the main rights holders, but share coverage for the competition with S4C, BBC Wales and BBC Northern Ireland, SuperSport in South Africa and TG4 and RTE in the Republic of Ireland.
The potential disposal of Viaplay’s contract with the URC could mean a direct sale of its broadcasting rights, ensuring some continuity for viewers.
Another option is partnering with a new company willing to share the costs.
Viaplay entered the UK market last year with its takeover of Premier Sports, giving it the rights to the likes of Spain’s LaLiga, the Scottish Cup and Scotland’s national team games as well as rugby through the comprehensive URC deal.
Looks like Viaplay have withdrawn from the UK altogether amidst huge financial problems stemming from lower than expected subscriptions.
That would leave the URC without a broadcaster for the majority of games in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
— Cardiff Rugby Life (@CardiffRugbyWeb) July 20, 2023