- Six Nations has extended TV deal with BBC and ITV in the UK
- TikTok is the first ever title sponsor of the women’s competition
The Six Nations hopes new technologies and broadcast innovations can help expand the reach of its competitions and engage younger fans who might be interested in rugby union but aren’t necessarily interested in traditional broadcasts.
“What we’re really trying to do is deliver ‘unmissable’ experiences and that’s something we try to do for all age groups,” Six Nations chief executive Ben Morel told SportsPro Live at The Oval in London. “But in order to do the same with a younger audience, you need to go where they are rather than hoping they come to you.
“The good news is we have fantastic [athletes] and competitions so we have all the ingredients, we just need to speak their voice. I think if you look at the younger audience and understand that you need to tell them the right stories, bring them along, and celebrate the heroes of the game.
“You need to make sure games are more accessible and understandable. They don’t want to be talked to as rugby fans but rugby citizens. Rugby has fantastic values with a lot of positive engagement platforms for younger fans. ”
A partnership with TikTok has helped in this regard, reaching new audiences, and providing the first ever title sponsor for the women’s championship. However, free-to-air (FTA) television still has tremendous value for reaching the widest possible audience for all demographics. The Six Nations has just extended deals with the BBC and ITV, ending long-running speculation that the championship could shift to pay-TV.
The most recent deal also included provisions for the women’s and Under-20 tournaments for the first time.
“What was interesting was that those deals were not just about the men’s tournament but about the women’s competition,” said Morel. “It was an unprecedented broadcast partnership that meant the Six Nations ultimately remained a fundamental crown jewel on FTA television.
“It’s a fine balance between exposure that can inspire the younger generation and promote the sport and ultimately financing the sport. IT’s not as binary as people think. ”
Morel added that he is interested in “anything that makes the game” more accessible “and understandable.”
He cited the example of new graphics, child-friendly simulcasts in the US as an example. Last year, CBS broadcast the clash between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears with child friendly commentary, on-screen graphics and content, as well as visual filters and slime explosions when a touchdown was scored.
The decision to offer the first children-focused broadcast in NFL history was vindicated with Nickelodeon’s highest ratings in four years and two Sports Emmy awards.
“Smart ball technologies are coming, I think augmented reality live broadcasts… are really interesting,” he added. “I think some of those kid-specific streams that you see in the US sports are really interesting. I think speaking with the right voice and right graphics to explain the game and get younger people interested. ”