In a carve up that exposed the extent of the financial plight facing the BBC, ITV was awarded all the home matches of England, Ireland and Italy, with its rival retaining those of Scotland, Wales and France.
That gave ITV seven of the 10 Six Nations games England play every two years, with the BBC left with only their fixture in Wales in odd-numbered years.
Of the 45 matches ITV will show over the duration of the six year contract, almost half will feature England, compared to one-fifth of those broadcast by the BBC.
The beleaguered corporation instead retained the rights to 12 of the 18 fixtures played biennially by Scotland and Wales, including all those at Murrayfield and the Millennium Stadium.
The BBC said that demonstrated its commitment to remaining the broadcaster for the whole of the UK.
But ratings for England matches are likely to far outstrip those for other countries, meaning there is no doubt ITV has got the better end of the deal.
Especially when you consider the £50 million-a-year contract – which does give the BBC live radio rights – has been split virtually down the middle.
Games have been divided so the BBC will show eight fixtures one year and seven the next, and vice-versa for ITV.
Securing the prize of all Twickenham matches also means the BBC being effectively locked out of rugby’s headquarters for what could be years, potentially until 2021.
ITV holds the exclusive rights to the Rugby World Cup, which is being staged in England this year, while Sky Sports last year renewed its contract for their autumn internationals until 2020.
The rights share effectively spells the end of ‘Super Saturday’, during which the BBC showed the final three fixtures of the championship back to back.
Presuming the concept survives, those games will now be shared with ITV.
There could also now be a battle for John Inverdale’s services as presenter of each channel’s coverage, unless they agree to share him beyond the World Cup.
BBC director of sport Barbara Slater said: “It’s great news for fans of the Six Nations that the championship will be staying on free-to-air television. It’s a very special competition and our viewing figures from this year prove just how popular it is with audiences. We very much look forward to starting our new partnership with ITV and continuing our strong relationship with RBS 6 Nations.”
Slater’s ITV counterpart, Niall Sloane, added:“As ITV prepares to bring viewers exclusive, free-to-air live coverage of the Rugby World Cup later this year, we’re delighted to be strengthening our ties with the game by bringing audiences the first-class, live action and unique atmosphere of the RBS 6 Nations from next year.”
BBC Six Nations fixtures (2016-21)
Scotland v England, Wales v England, France v England, Scotland v Wales, Scotland v Ireland, Scotland v France, Scotland v Italy, Wales v Scotland, Wales v Ireland, Wales v France, Wales v Italy, France v Scotland, France v Wales, France v Ireland, France v Italy.
ITV Six Nations fixtures (2016-21)
England v Scotland, England v Wales, England v Ireland, England v France, England v Italy, Ireland v England, Italy v England, Ireland v Scotland, Ireland v Wales, Ireland v France, Ireland v Italy, Italy v Scotland, Italy v Wales, Italy v Ireland, Italy v France.