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.
Greig Laidlaw skippers the Cherry and Whites on Friday evening, when they head to Sale Sharks for the penultimate game of this season's Aviva Premiership. The Scottish half back spoke to GRTV about the challenge posed in Salford.
Previewing Friday night's Aviva Premiership fixture away at Sale Sharks, Head Coach Laurie Fisher acknowledged the fine home record that the Salford based outfit have built up this season, but is looking for Gloucester to round off their campaign on a high note.
Speaking to GRTV following the 16-9 victory over Exeter, Tom Savage felt that Gloucester needed that win after a tough few weeks and hopes that it acts as a springboard to a good end to the season for the Cherry and Whites.
A week on from '...letting down ourselves, the jersey and the supporters...', skipper Greig Laidlaw was full of praise for his team mates following the 16-9 Aviva Premiership win over Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm on Friday evening.
With Gloucester looking to bounce back after exiting the European Rugby Challenge Cup last Saturday, Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the local media that the visit of Exeter Chiefs on Friday evening (kick off 7:45pm) will be a big test of character for the Cherry and Whites.
Rob Cook couldn't hide his disappointment when he spoke to GRTV following the 21-23 defeat at home to Newport Gwent Dragons on Saturday, stating that Gloucester simply hadn't been good enough on the day as their reign as European Rugby Challenge Cup holders comes to an end.
Four penalties from the boot of skipper Greig Laidlaw were just enough to see Gloucester dog out a tense 12-11 win at Sale on Friday evening and thwart the home team's attempts to finish the season unbeaten at home.
Thirteen years on from Gloucester Rugby's famous Powergen Cup victory over Northampton at Twickenham, many of the players and management from that side are gathering once more to recreate that famous day.