Lewis encouraged by TV interest
7th February 2011
Rugby Football League chairman Richard Lewis believes the BBC and Sky will face stiff competition for broadcasting rights, with ESPN tipped to make a bid to televise Super League from 2012.
The existing deals for both the League and the Carnegie Challenge Cup, with Sky and the BBC respectively, expire at the end of this season and the process of renewal has begun.
"We put the tender document out to prospective bidders last week and the broadcasters have a month to respond," said Lewis, who was attending today's launch of the new Engage Super League season at Old Trafford.
"I would think it will be at least a couple of months before we know what's happening.
"We've had discussions with our long-standing partners like Sky and the BBC and we've had various conversations new entrants like ESPN, who are interested.
"They already show rugby union and it's logical for them to take a look at rugby league.
"There is a lot of interest and I think it's quite a buoyant market place for rugby league. I'm really encouraged."
Lewis has not ruled out a departure from the exclusive deals which both Sky and the BBC have enjoyed in the past and says the League are open to negotiating packages incorporating primary and secondary rights.
The Challenge Cup final is currently one of the Government's 'listed' events, the sporting competitions tied to free-to-air terrestrial television, but there is nothing to stop other broadcasters showing matches from the earlier rounds.
"There are packages in the document," added Lewis. "It's really what the broadcasters say is best for them.
"It's a free marketplace. It's only the final that has to be shown on terrestrial television."
The RFL secured a significant increase when the Super League television rights were last renegotiated in November 2007, with each club's annual share of the pot increasing from around £750,000 to more than £1million.
Lewis also confirmed that the League have begun tentative discussions over Super League's title sponsorship with Engage Mutual Assurance, the Harrogate-based financial services company who have been involved since 2005 and whose current deal expires at the end of the new season.