Coverage of The British and Irish Lions will return to UK terrestrial television for the first time since 1993 after commercial broadcaster Channel 4 finalised a deal for a highlights package for the Lions’ upcoming series against South Africa.
Under the terms of the agreement, Channel 4 will air recaps of the three Tests against world champions South Africa, along with coverage of the Lions’ warm-up match against Japan at Murrayfield on 26 June. In addition, rugby union fans will be able to watch on-demand highlights on the All4 streaming service.
The deal, which has been in the pipeline since March, marks the Lions’ return to terrestrial television for the first time in 28 years, when free-to-air broadcaster ITV last showed the rugby union team’s tour of New Zealand in 1993.
“This is set to be a mouth-watering contest with Alun Wyn Jones leading the Lions against the reigning World Champions,” noted Channel 4’s Head of Sport, Pete Andrews.
“It’s fantastic news for rugby fans who will relish the opportunity of seeing the British & Irish Lions in action on free-to-air television.”
The three Test matches and four four fixtures will all take place behind closed doors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, after the Lions turned down Rugby Australia’s offer to host the series earlier in the year when considering contingency plans which could have seen the tour postponed altogether.
UK broadcaster Sky Sports will also show the tour after locking down the exclusive live broadcast rights to the series in 2020, including five warm-up games.
British and Irish Lions Managing Director, Ben Calveley, added: “We are delighted that Channel 4 are our broadcast partners for our first match on home soil since 2005.
“I am looking forward to the excellent coverage and analysis that Channel 4 will no doubt provide and going on the recent squad announcement I’m sure the interest and numbers tuning in will be considerable for this clash.”