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CBS Sports, FS1 Add Rugby Sevens to Summer Slate

Premier Rugby Sevens (PR7s) has found its broadcast homes for 2023. CBS Sports and Fox Sports’ FS1 have picked up PR7’s primary broadcast rights for the upcoming season.

The deal marks Fox’s return to the property after broadcasting its debut in 2021. FuboTV served as the upstart league’s broadcast partner during its 2022 campaign.

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Terms of the agreements were not disclosed.

This year’s expanded slate will feature eight men’s and women’s PR7s teams competing in five tournaments in Austin, Minneapolis, San Jose, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. A total of 192 players will participate in a 40-game season—eight games per tournament—up from around 30 games across a trio of tournaments in 2022.

CBS Sports Network will live broadcast three of this season’s five PR7s tournaments, starting with the league’s opening weekend in Austin on June 17. The 2023 season will culminate with the championship at D.C. United’s Audi Field on Aug. 6, which will be broadcast live on FS1. Tubi will live broadcast the remaining weekend of competition, which FS1 will re-air the next day.

“We’re a sport with this big global audience, but still an emerging audience in the U.S., so reach is super important for us, and in that respect, trying to get as wide-reaching of a distribution deal as possible was a priority,” Owen Scannell, founder and CEO of PR7s, said. “We wanted to ensure that we were getting as many eyeballs as possible on the sport of rugby sevens and on Premier Rugby Sevens. We think once fans see it, they’ll love what they see. We’re thrilled to be able to do that with two fantastic partners like CBS Sports and FS1.”

Both broadcasters’ rights include distribution in North America, with CBS’ rights extending to Canada. Scannell said PR7s is in active discussions around an international rights deal in countries with large rugby audiences like South Africa, New Zealand and the U.K.

Rugby sevens is an Olympic form of the sport that features seven players per side and short, tournament-style matches lasting just 14 minutes. PR7s was established as a single-entity league with a tour-based circuit model, where men’s and women’s teams play at one location over a festival-style weekend. This year’s eight-game per tournament format is a condensed version of previous PR7s seasons when play spanned an entire day. The league is also eliminating group play this year, instead mirroring a more familiar bracket-like structure where every weekend counts toward the playoffs.

The changes were done in part to accommodate the additional teams without extending the competitions to several days, as well as to help the broadcast audience understand the sport. Four sides (the Texas Team, New York Locals, Southern Headliners and Pittsburgh Steeltoes) comprise the eastern conference, while the Northern Loonies, SoCal Loggerheads, Rocky Mountain Experts and Golden State Retrievers make up the west).

“We wanted to start to approximate what an American sports fan is used to seeing,” Scannell said. “Rugby sevens, traditionally, is this multi-day tournament, eight-plus hours of rugby a day, with group stage play into knockout rounds with a high volume of matches. We wanted to refine and sharpen the product to make sure that every match mattered [and] the stakes are really clear as to why. [It also reduces] our match day to under five hours and makes sure that when people tune in, they know what they’re watching. It’s more intuitive.”

PR7’s 2023 campaign will kick off in June, during a quieter time for the league’s broadcast partners, before CBS Sports returns its focus to the NFL and college football, and as much of Fox Sports’ attention is focused on MLS and Women’s World Cup soccer coverage.

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