NBC Scores Rugby Rights

World Cup games to be televised in the United States for the first time
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NEW YORK and WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CALIF.: The Rugby World Cup is coming to U.S. broadcast TV for the first time next year thanks to a deal between NBC Sports and the International Rugby Board. NBC Sports, along with its sister diginet, Universal Sports Network, secured the TV rights for the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and 2015. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Universal Sports and NBC Sports will provide full, multiplatform coverage of all 48 matches during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and the 2015 World Cup in England, the networks said in a joint announcement. Two matches in each tournament, including the finals in 2011 and 2015, will air either live or on a same-day delay on NBC Sports. Live and delayed coverage will also be posted at www.universalsports.com, and transmitted to Universal Sports mobile platforms. Coverage will feature a studio pre-game show, halftime and post-game shows, distributed in high definition.

The Rugby World Cup drew an estimated 4.2 billion viewers worldwide during the last championship in France in 2007. (By comparison, the FIFA World Cup of soccer drew 26 billion viewers cumulatively in 2006.) The competition next year begins Sept. 9, 2011, when host New Zealand meets Tonga in Auckland. The tournament field consists of 20 nations that compete over the course of a month for the Webb Ellis Cup. New Zealand and Australia jointly hosted the first edition of the Rugby World Cup in 1987 while South Africa is the defending champion from 2007.

The agreement extends Universal Sports’ focus on rugby, which will debut at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The network’s rugby coverage also includes a deal with USA Rugby for televising the U.S. collegiate championship.