Rugby union: All change as BT clinch deal for live rugby coverage
Broadcasters Sky Sports and ESPN have lost the rights to screen top-flight domestic rugby in England after the Aviva Premiership struck a deal with telecommunications provider BT worth £152million.
The four-year agreement is one of the biggest deals in the history of club rugby.
From the start of next season, BT will have the exclusive live broadcast rights to show Aviva Premiership Rugby and the JP Morgan Asset Management Sevens.
BT will also have exclusive live rights to matches played by Premiership clubs in any future European competitions from 2014-15 for three years.
Live Premiership matches are currently split between BSkyB and ESPN, and it is understood that the new BT coverage will be available through both Sky and Virgin television packages.
BT have recently expanded their portfolio by purchasing rights to some matches in football's Premier League.
Their deal with domestic rugby will see them show up to 69 matches per season (around three a week, plus semi-finals and final) from the Premiership for the next four seasons.
Mark McCafferty, chief executive of Premiership Rugby, the umbrella body made up of the 12 Premiership clubs, said it was a "game-changing agreement".
"We are delighted to have concluded our discussions with such an ambitious partner who will help bring Premiership Rugby to new audiences," he said.
"BT is a company at the cutting edge of technology and that is one of the reasons it makes them such an exciting broadcast partner for Premiership Rugby."
One of the players expected to light up BT's coverage next season is new Leicester Tigers winger Vereniki Goneva.
The Fijian has made a stunning start to his time at the club with six tries in five starts.
Many people had the 28-year-old as a direct replacement for departing Samoan Alesana Tuilagi, but director of rugby Richard Cockerill says they are two "completely different" players.
"Niki comes here as a 28-year-old who has lots of experience and has played 25 Test matches, whereas Alesana came to us as a young man who was very raw," Cockerill.
"Niki has good footwork, a great step and will beat a player. Alesana is a beast who will give you the 'Samoan sidestep' and run straight over. They are totally different players.
"Niki understands the game and he has been very solid."