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Monday, January 25, 2016

Guest Editorial: Rugby & Television

This editorial was penned by Paul Acutt.

This editorial letter is to draw attention to the biggest problem in USA rugby.  No, not a lack of quality players, coaches, pitches, youth programs etc.  Rather the most pressing problem with rugby in America is its complete lack of exposure in the media.
When American’s discover rugby on television they cannot get enough.  At a recent family gathering, a relative from out of state commented to me that he stumbled upon an EPCR game on ESPN3 featuring Toulouse.  He stated that he and son starting watching rugby religiously without fully understanding the game.  What he did understand was that these players where quality athletes and he loved the speed and ferocity it was played at.  He now watches every rugby game on ESPN 3 including as he puts it, “the dull ones”.
Take the jump to read more.
This brings me to rugby in America’s problem, apart from the TOP 14 and EPRC, there is no readily available quality rugby on television.  The greatest World Cup ever staged.  Not seen in America.  My guess is 99% of the population did not even know there was a Rugby World Cup and even those that did where unlikely to fork over PPV prices to watch them.  Premiership rugby?  Only available on an obscure Bein sports channel that most native born citizens would not watch.  Super rugby and the rugby championship?  Only on DirecTV!  Six Nations?  Only on PPV meaning there is no chance in hell of an American stumbling upon it.
For many years (at least 30) America has been referred to as the sleeping giant of Rugby.  Problem is the Sleeping Giant has been giving a lethal dose of sleeping pills and the only cure is to get rugby front and center in the media.  This may mean, “Gasp”, losing money up front to make money down the road.  Remember the MLS early years?  The MLS had to buy time on television to be seen; now they get money to be on television.  The same is true for rugby.  We cannot expect to grow the game without somehow getting the game front and center of the American people.  If the next World Cup is on PPV, then American rugby will have failed dismally.
Here’s hoping that American rugby will get its media act together.


  1. I agree with the general theme of the article but I do feel the need to point out that three games including the final (yes I know only three) were on NBC for the last RWC. Also as mighty as US pro sports are they're certainly not on regular TV in my home country for NZers to "stumble upon" in your words. You still have to pay out a good sum of money to get them on a paid channel. I suspect that's the case in a good many other countries as well, just to give the other side of the coin.

    I'd also like to point out that the USA 7s have been on NBC and NBC Sports for a good number of years now, as have the Collegiete CRC7s and that the All Blacks v USA Eagles game was live on NBC. Yes, not exactly overflowing but to say there's absolutely nothing. That's not strictly correct. BTW, I am just a Kiwi visitor to this site. I have no connection whatsoever with NBC.

    Mr Acutt, you might also like to know that now in the days of the mighty dollar in our sport, in NZ in the case of Super rugby there is only one delayed game, and a round up highlights show the next day on free to air TV. All Blacks games are also on delay not live on free to air TV. The NZ7s have now also gone that way. If you want to see any live rugby you have shell out to subscribe to a pay tv channel (ie SKY TV NZ). No overseas rugby competitions are also live free to air, including the Six Nations. On top of this, last year for the first time there was no live coverage of the RWC on free to air, and only about half the games were on delay with additional coverage through highlights shows for those and other games. better than the US, but not great for the world's leading rugby nation!

    Forgive my ignorance as a Kiwi, but isn't Direct TV a pretty well-established, readily available option for most Americans? Apologies if I'm wrong.

  2. Kiwi, I have DirecTV. There are six channels that are called 'rugby' something, with absolutely no programming.
    I've had to buy a channel for BeInSport that mostly shows soccer and rugby at odd times. I've had to set up an autorecord search for "rugby" to catch any games whenever they are broadcast. NEVER live, always delayed a couple of days.
    And even then, I get Premiership and Champions Cup games, not the Challenge Cup games for my preferred team.
    In theory BBCAmerica will be showing the Six Nations, but I'll believe that when I see it.
    I've recently discovered WatchESPN, which I can see only because I have a DirecTV account and login.
    As for the RWC? I had to go to the only bar in the entire state of Maryland at 7am on a Sunday to see games.
    And I had to get up at 3am once to see a game streamed live.

    As you can see, I'm a persistent kinda gal, but who else is going to jump through all these hoops?
    Yes, all I had to do was see one game and I was hooked - you're right about that.
    But what about the rest of America?

    1. DirecTV carries every Super Rugby match and Rugby Championship match, live, for free. It's fantastic. Nothing shows up in the guide because the season doesn't start until late next month.

  3. There is a different angle to gaining traction in the USA, and it doesn't involve television.


    My sister started her kids in youth rugby (one boy, one girl) rather than football or soccer because it seemed ... dare I say safer?... then those other sports. The boy is now seventeen and still playing in high school, looking for a college with a serious rugby program. I've never seen him come off the pitch dazed. Bloody? maybe. Concussed? no. Same thing with the college teams I'm following.

    Americans are now nervous about football, at the very youngest levels.
    If WorldRugby changes the culture, so that concussions and head injury prevention are top of the agenda, rugby could be the sport for Americans to embrace instead of football.

    Is television important? Yes, and we'll have the Olympics pushing sevens rugby in everyone's face in August.
    Let's see whether that changes rugby participation when school starts up again in September.

  4. This editorial basically hits it. I live in New York City and besides a handful (being generous) of places you couldn't watch 99% of the Rugby World Cup. There was no sense it was even happening, whereas with the soccer World Cup a blind person would have known something was up. Yes the soccer version is a bigger event but there are plenty of people from rugby nations as well. You had to seek out the RWC, and zero chance casual fans would do that.

    RWC 2019 has to be different. Pro Rugby needs to be working on getting to a channel people actually can get, and not settling for BeIN Sports (as someone's who's also a soccer fan, that channel is a running joke among fans) or some other far-flung outpost.

  5. Channels 490 and 490-1 were great to watch rugby but for some reason they are no longer showing in the guide at all. Having rugby only available on Direct TV was why I chose this service. I hope it returns as Super Rugby season warm up games have been played.

  6. I would like to subscribe to something that also provides Mitre 10. Wish Directv or ESPN would show it