Major League Rugby (MLR) and ESPN have announced an exclusive distribution agreement for MLR’s inaugural season, launching April 2018.
The deal is a vital part of providing rugby fans access to all 31 regular and postseason games of MLR’s first season.
ESPN will carry an 18-game package covering regular season games to national and international audiences across its platforms.
Regional sports networks in the seven markets with teams in 2018 will also broadcast the 18-game package. Earlier this fall, MLR announced a 13-game lead-television package with CBS Sports Network including coverage of the semifinals and championship game.
“We are excited to have ESPN as a partner of ours,” said Major League Rugby Commissioner, Dean Howes. “ESPN is one of the most powerful brands in sports, and we couldn’t be more pleased to provide our fans with access to MLR content through ESPN platforms.”
Major League Rugby will launch with seven teams in 2018 including Austin, Houston, Glendale (Colorado), New Orleans, San Diego, Seattle and Salt Lake City (Utah). Additionally, New York has joined as an associate member for 2018 commencing regular season play in 2019.
Each market has a long history of support for the game of rugby. The members have strong local and civic-minded ownership groups with deep ties to their communities and have established grassroots programs, venues in place or in development, and a player pool featuring the best players in North America, reinforced by up to five international signings in the 15-player, Rugby Union format.