For all the ground BT have made up in the sports broadcasting sector, there are still some areas where Sky simply can't be touched. Golf and tennis are two of the big ones, but in the north of England, there's only thing in particular that Sky do better than anybody - Rugby League. The sport has just come off the back of a thrilling season, which saw Leeds Rhinos do the treble after winning the League, the 2015 Grand Final against Wigan and the Challenge Cup, where they annihilated Hull KR in a 50 - 0 thriller which broke all records. Interest in the sport is at the highest its been for years, and the telephone number for Sky has been busy handling calls from eager customers regarding its return.
Today, Sky Sports have announced that the return of Rugby League will once again be exclusively on their channels, and will begin at the home of Leeds Rhinos before treating us to progress across four different competitions. Leeds begin their defense of the League Leader's Shield at home to Warrington Wolves on opening night, Thursday the 4th of February. That same night, viewers will also get to see the first efforts from Leeds' 2015 Grand Final opponents Wigan Warriors, who are welcoming back the 2012 Man of Steel and club legend Sam Tomkins after he spent last season with the New Zealand Warriors in the NRL.
That game forms part of Sky's superb early season schedule, which will treat viewers to all three games from the World Club Series from the 19th to the 21st of February. Tomkins will be facing up against some opponents who have become very familiar to him over the last year. He'll be facing up against the current NRL champions North Queensland Cowboys, the Brisbane Broncos and Sydney Roosters as they travel to the UK to face the top three Super League sides.
Back in the Super League, Sky have committed to featuring all four of last season's semi-finalists by the end of round two, and showing every team by the end of the ten rounds. It's a reflection of Sky's commitment to bringing comprehensive Rugby League coverage to their customers. Magic Weekend and the Kingstone Press Championship's Summer Bash will also make their return in May, which will see every Super League and Championship club be shown live over two consecutive weekends.
Neville Smith, executive producer of rugby league, said: “A nail-biting Grand Final has only just finished but we are already preparing for another huge season of rugby league here at Sky Sports. Fans will be treated to the best of the action with over 100 live matches featuring 27 teams from four different competitions. I can’t wait and am excited about taking viewers on another hard-hitting, high-octane journey of this fantastic sport.”
Rugby is a real pride point for Sky, and the company have been investing heavily into it over the last few years. It's further indicated by the five year exclusivity deal Sky just signed to ensure that they'll show the very best rugby from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina well into the near future and keep customers from the telephone number for Sky.
Mark Alexander, SANZAR Chairman, said: “SANZAR is delighted to be renewing its broadcasting deal with Sky Sports that has been our valued partner for the past 20 years since the inception of professional rugby in 1996. We have a very strong fan base in the United Kingdom and Ireland and it is important for us that they can see as much SANZAR content as possible. Sky Sports delivers this for us.”
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