BBC/ITV deal likely to see Six nations coverage remain on terrestrial TV

Ireland fly half Jonathan Sexton kicks a penalty watched by Paul O' Connell during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and Ireland at Murrayfield

The Six Nations is poised to remain on terrestrial television after the BBC and ITV teamed up to keep it out of the clutches of Sky Sports in a £50  million swoop, it was reported on Tuesday night.

According to the Guardian, the BBC approached ITV with an offer to share coverage upon being outbid by Sky for the rights to international rugby’s biggest annual tournament from 2018.

An announcement that the two terrestrial broadcasters would split the 15 Six Nations matches between them was said to be imminent, something that would be welcomed by armchair fans who have seen a succession of major sporting events lured to pay-TV in recent years.

The Six Nations was in serious danger of following suit after tournament organisers openly courted bids from the likes of Sky and BT to drive up the price. As it was, only Sky made an offer, which was said to have fallen short of the amount needed for the Six Nations board to seriously consider defecting from terrestrial television.

That followed record-breaking ratings for the most dramatic final day in the Championship’s history, which Paul O’Connell’s Ireland won after Chris Robshaw narrowly failed to inspire England to an historic triumph. BT were prepared to help prop up any BBC bid that fell short in exchange for some matches, with the two companies having forged close links when it comes to rights.

Turning to ITV would therefore represent something of a surprise move by the corporation.

The BBC faces an uncertain future after learning the Government was planning to make it foot the £650m bill for supplying over-75s with a free television licence and last week was beaten to the rights for the Olympic Games by the owner of Eurosport.

It is unclear how the deal could affect Irish viewers but it looks likely that RTE will continue to broadcast the tournament beyond 2017 when their deal with the Six Nations expires.