Bill Sweeney determined to keep Six Nations on free-to-air TV amid Cricket World Cup issues

Simon Collings
Evening Standard

English rugby’s new boss is determined to keep the Six Nations free to air after watching the Cricket World Cup struggle to attract viewers.

Bill Sweeney, the new chief executive of the RFU, pledged to ensure “about 50 per cent” of the Six Nations remains on terrestrial television when the new broadcast deal starts in 2021.

In cricket, England have been behind the Sky paywall since 2006. While Sky have invested huge amounts in the game and cover it exhaustively, viewing figures for the Cricket World Cup have been low.

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The women’s football World Cup, by contrast, attracted a peak of 6.1million viewers for England’s clash against Scotland last Saturday.

“There has to be the right compromise,” said Sweeney. “We would be concerned if the Six Nations went 100 per cent paywall.

Cricket is probably the number one example of what happens or what can happen.”

The BBC and ITV have the rights to show the Six Nations until 2021 after joining forces in 2015 to ensure it remained on free-to-air channels.

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