England v All Blacks to move from Amazon to TNT Sports – and that’s a good thing

Maro Itoje of England during the Rugby World Cup 2019

England’s showdown with New Zealand will be shown on TNT Sports in November after the broadcaster became the new home of rugby union’s autumn internationals in the UK and Ireland.

Distribution to free-to-air broadcasters is still to be confirmed and will most likely consist of highlights packages.

The fixtures were previously broadcast by Amazon Prime, but will now move to TNT and the discovery+ app which will show every match.

Fixtures among the 21 matches this autumn include England and Ireland’s clashes with the All Blacks and Scotland hosting South Africa.

Rugby’s autumn fixtures have historically been broadcast on paid-TV, with Sky Sports the long-term broadcaster before Amazon Prime, which took over broadcasting the fixtures during the pandemic for a reported £20 million, starting with the Autumn Nations Cup back in 2020.

TNT also hold the broadcasting rights to the Gallagher Premiership and Investec Champions Cup, recently extending its deal with Premiership Rugby for a further two years with all 93 matches now shown by TNT next season, as well as Premiership Women’s Rugby and the HSBC SVNS Series.

Tom Harrison, CEO of Six Nations Rugby, which organises the fixtures, said: “It is a significant moment to welcome TNT Sports into our broadcast family of international rugby for the first time given our commitment to deliver the best possible experience for fans.”

England’s summer Tests will continue to be broadcast by Sky Sports, whose deal with Sanzaar (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina Rugby) runs until 2025, showing matches from Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship. Sky will also broadcast the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia next year.

The rights for the Six Nations continue to be split between BBC and ITV, although the competition is notably no longer part of the UK government’s ‘Crown Jewels’ list of sporting events which have to be offered to free-to-air broadcasters, including the Olympics, Wimbledon, football and rugby World Cups. It was moved earlier this year to ‘Group B’, meaning it can be broadcast by a subscription service providing highlights are shown on a free-to-air broadcaster.

TNT in a position of strength and that’s good news for fans

TNT’s move to pick up the autumn international rights means that for the first time since Sky in the 2010s, there is one truly dominant broadcaster for rugby union in England. TNT already held the rights to three domestic competitions, recently extending  its Premiership deal, as well as the sevens. Picking up the autumn internationals, however, takes its coverage to a new level. Unlike when Amazon took over a few years ago, for viewers there will be a sense of familiarity with the broadcasters and pundits and presentation. That seems like a good thing. Given Sky’s reduction in coverage over recent years, the imminent conclusion of its deal with Sanzaar next year, which includes summer tours to the southern hemisphere and crucially the British and Irish Lions tours, is now very interesting. Could TNT swoop for that as well, adding the Lions, summer tours, the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby to its portfolio? It seems possible.

Craig Doyle
Craig Doyle presents TNT Sports' rugby - David Rogers/Getty Images

Costs have to be addressed. Supporters in England will happily put all of their funds into one rugby-viewing basket, and for those already paying TNT £30.99 a month (perhaps less tied in with other broadband packages or phone deals) to watch the Premiership and Champions Cup, getting more rugby from one provider and being able to cancel their Prime Video service, should they choose to in order to save a few pounds each month, is going to go down well.

As for those supporters in the UK and Ireland who don’t follow the English club game and will only want to watch the internationals? Well, that deal is not so good. Prime Video costs £5.99 per month on its own or £8.99 per month if included with a full Amazon package; a fairly manageable cost. TNT’s monthly cost, at just under £31, is substantially higher, even if it does also offer several different sports (Premier League and Champions League football, for example).

Amazon’s coverage was fine if not overly memorable – I’ll freely admit to at one point forgetting that it was broadcasting the Rugby World Cup warm-up matches – with its best work in rugby seen in documentaries about the sport, No Woman No Try, Everybody’s Game, Mud, Sweat and Tears: Premiership Rugby to name a few. Attempting to watch back some of its recent match coverage in advance of writing this, I noticed the games are now unavailable on Prime Video. There was certainly no lack of investment put into promoting the product – bringing in familiar presenters and pundits from the BBC and ITV, even TNT – but four years is not long enough to make a serious dent on the rugby broadcasting stage when you consider that the core of TNT’s on-air talent and off-air production staff have been together for an age, going back to the ESPN days, plus Sky’s dominant era before that.

Television coverage of the sport as a whole in the UK and Ireland feels like it is in a bit of a holding pattern until the Nations Championship gets under way in 2026, hence the brevity of TNT’s recent new deal with Premiership Rugby for two seasons, not forgetting either the declassification of the Six Nations as one of the ‘Crown Jewel’ free-to-air TV events. For now, TNT is in a position of strength, and for regular rugby viewers of the game in England, getting more out of its investment will be a positive. For the rest? Time to dig a little deeper into the wallet.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.