Premier Rugby and ESPN have agreed a three year contract for exclusive live rights to 43 matches per season from the Guinness Premiership, beginning next season and running through to the 2012-2013 season.
The multi-year deal brings 43 live matches to ESPN in UK including exclusive live coverage of the Guinness Premiership Final and one of the two semi-final matches. The agreement also provides highlight rights for use on ESPN digital media such as ESPNScrum.com.
Jon Varney, Commercial Director of Premier Rugby said:
"This deal with ESPN secures a partnership with one of the world's leading broadcasters, who become yet another blue chip supporter of club rugby in England.
"Starting next season, our new television deals mean we have doubled the number of live televised Premiership matches, which will further raise the profile of the sport in the UK and overseas and will allow our clubs and sponsors to derive even greater exposure and value. It also means supporters have more chance to see their team on live television.
"ESPN are renowned for their innovation and we are all genuinely excited about the opportunity of working with them to drive value in both our businesses."
Added Jeroen Oerlemans, Vice President, TV Channels Europe, Middle East and Africa:
"The Guinness Premiership is among the very best UK sports competitions, with a passionate fan base and top quality competition. We're thrilled to add it to our programming schedule and know that it will deliver great value for fans, advertisers and our partners."
The world's most competitive rugby union competition, the Guinness Premiership is the top division for club competition in England.
From its beginnings as the Allied Dunbar Premiership in 1998, the league has established itself as a top global rugby union league and evolved into its current format with relegation to and promotion from the second-tier Championship.
It features the 12 leading clubs in the country. Its regular season runs from September to May and comprises 22 rounds of matches. The teams play each other on a home and away basis during the regular season with the top four sides qualifying for the semi-final.
The top two sides are guaranteed home advantage in the last four with the final staged at Twickenham Stadium.
The agreement adds to ESPN's coverage of rugby in the UK, where it also delivers live coverage of French Top 14 Orange Rugby.
ESPN also recently announced an agreement to show archive matches and footage from each of the six Rugby World Cup tournaments to date on ESPN Classic in the UK, Europe, Middle East and Africa.
The content will be featured on the channel in the coming months and will continue in the run-up to Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand, and beyond.
The Guinness Premiership joins an ESPN programming lineup that is rich in top-quality, exclusive sports.
Launched in August, ESPN features top live football from around the world (Barclays Premier League, FA Cup, Clydesdale Bank Premier League, UEFA Europa League, Italian Serie A, Spanish Liga, German Bundesliga, Dutch Eredivisie, Portuguese Liga, Russian Premier League and MLS) as well as UFC - Ultimate Fighting Championship, Top 14 Orange rugby, Australian Rules Football (AFL), NHL, NBA, Major League Baseball and more.
Speaking to the local media this week, back row flanker Jacob Rowan said that he is excited for the challenge at the Ricoh Arena this Sunday, and added that the players know the responsibility is theirs to deliver against the league leaders.
Ben Morgan was on media duty this week, and as Gloucester prepare for Sunday's trip to Wasps, the number eight is looking forward to see Gloucester go toe-to-toe with another of the Aviva Premiership's front runners.
Tom Marshall scored his first Gloucester try in the 31-23 win over Saracens on Friday evening and was named Man of the Match. Talking to GRTV, he praised the forwards for setting the tone on the night.
Matt Scott was on media duty this week, and the Scottish international spoke about the benefit of having a full week of training with his club mates and the determination to get back to performing well against Saracens this Friday evening.
Last Friday night saw Gloucester Rugby Head of Community Adam Balding present a cheque for £7082.82 to the Royal British Legion as a result of a series of fundraising during the Remembrance Period in November.
Gloucester battled bravely against Wasps on Sunday, but it was a case of taking chances at the Ricoh Arena. Gloucester didn't make the most of theirs while Wasps did, and that proved to be the difference.
Gloucester were competitive for long periods at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday afternoon, but were left to rue a host of missed scoring opportunities throughout as Wasps hit back to earn a 35-22 Aviva Premiership win.
Gloucester's Ciaran Knight made his first start at tighthead prop, Henry Walker made his first appearance as a second half replacement and Alex Seville also featured as England U20s might it three from three in the U20s Six Nations with a 46-0 win over Italy in Darlington on Friday night.