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Dublin: 5°C Sunday 7 March 2021

ESPN agrees three-year deal to screen the Pro14 in America

‘This new partnership will be remembered as a significant day in the history of the Guinness Pro14.’

ESPN HAS SECURED the American TV rights for the Guinness Pro14 for the next three seasons.

The new deal means the Pro14 will be shown in the US on the streaming service ESPN+, as well as ESPN’s television networks, up until 2021.

Leinster team celebrate on the podium with the trophy Leinster are the defending Pro14 champions. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

It’s a positive announcement for the Pro14 ahead of the 2018/19 season kicking off this evening with Leinster’s visit to the Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys hosting Edinburgh.

News of ESPN’s move to secure the broadcasting rights is also likely to be greeted enthusiastically by an ever-growing rugby fanbase in the US.

The Pro14 has new primary broadcasting partners in eir Sport and Premier Sports this season, and while the revenue from this deal with ESPN is not close to the value of those, The42 understands that it is the most lucrative deal for rugby TV rights in the US yet. 

While it appears that the Pro14′s hopes of expanding to include an American franchise have cooled for the immediate future as they focus on South Africa, the US remains an increasingly attractive market.

With Major League Rugby having enjoyed an encouraging first season in 2018 and the US Eagles impressing in a June Test series that included victory over Scotland, rugby continues to grow in the States.

The Pro14 provinces, regions and clubs are sure to welcome the new ESPN deal as an opportunity to gain new supporters in America. 

Indeed, it’s understood that some of the Irish provinces have already held informal discussions with clubs in the US about establishing stronger links in the future.

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The Ireland national team is returning to Chicago this November to play Italy, having beaten the All Blacks there in 2016.

Soccer - FA Cup - Third Round - Cheltenham Town v Everton - Whaddon Road ESPN are onboard for three years. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

ESPN’s new deal means that all 152 games in the Pro14 each season will be available in the US, with around 140 games screened on ESPN+ and 10 showcase games set to be shown in HD on ESPN networks.

“ESPN is synonymous with epic sporting moments and this new partnership will be remembered as a significant day in the history of the Guinness Pro14,” said Pro14 CEO Martin Anayi.

“We know how popular the Guinness Pro14 is in North America, particularly now with the US Eagles’ duo of Blaine Scully and Samu Manoa playing at Cardiff Blues.

“Rugby is growing in popularity all of the time in the US and we know rugby fans there are just as eager to see our games as supporters in Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa and Wales.

“We are thrilled to know that so many games will be available on ESPN+ with some of our best games of the season also screened on ESPN’s linear network.

“The Guinness Pro14 is one of the most exciting rugby union tournaments in the world which is going from strength to strength and we’re thrilled that American fans will see that for themselves.”

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Murray Kinsella

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