World Rugby, the governing body for rugby union, expects this year’s Rugby World Cup to have a potential audience up to 20 per cent higher than for the last edition in 2015.
As it finalises broadcasting rights deals for the competition taking place in Japan from September to November, World Rugby said that the event will have a record reach of more than 800 million households in 217 territories.
This will surpass the previous high of 683 million homes for the 2015 World Cup hosted by England.
With this year’s World Cup the first to be held in Asia, that continent is being seen as the best platform for growth, as World Rugby looks to broaden reach and participation, with the Impact Beyond programme having engaged with 1.16 million participants to date across the continent
There is expected to be a record TV audience for rugby in Japan for the national team’s opening World Cup match against Russia in Tokyo on 20 September, the first day of the tournament, surpassing the previous peak of 25 million.
World Rugby has still to announce rights deals for one or two territories, notably Italy, but is committed to maximising viewership worldwide, and where agreements are not concluded will be offering free-to-view live streaming via its digital platforms, with a choice of commentary and languages.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: "Our mission is to grow the global rugby family and our Rugby World Cup 2019 broadcast plans reflect that mission – providing more content to more people with more innovation than ever before. We are excited that new standards will be set in the broadcast and social media presentation of Rugby World Cup, as fans will experience the action from more angles and feel even closer to the world’s top players and the stories that will mark an historic and very special event."
Meanwhile, viewers are set to benefit from an enhanced TV production offering, with a minimum of 23 cameras at games, rising to 28 at prominent matches in the group stage and quarter-finals and 34 for the semi-finals and final.
For the first time at a World Cup, World Rugby is overseeing the production of the tournament, with the support of International Games Broadcast Services, the joint venture between IMG and Host Broadcast Services, and, in all, there will be four times as much content as that produced in 2015.
International broadcasters will have a choice of multiple feeds in multiple formats, giving them the opportunity to tailor content and show matches in UHD/4K.
Meanwhile, Japanese broadcaster NHK will offer 8K coverage in the domestic market.
In other developments, augmented reality (AR) graphics will be deployed for TV coverage of 34 of the 48 matches for elements such as team line-ups, player comparisons, statistics and tables, and IGBS will provide a variety of content, including infographics, for World Cup social and digital platforms.
Hawk-Eye technology will be used by television match officials, medical staff and for fan engagement purposes.
IGBS co-project director Dan Miodownik said: "We identified the areas where we could enhance the experience and looked at the ways in which we could deliver more content and in ways that rugby viewers have not seen before. By matching World Rugby’s ambition with our experience, I believe we have achieved that objective. It is going to be an exciting project."
The governing body will also look to engage with fans via the official tournament app, and there will be exclusive behind-the-scenes and daily digital and social media packages to fill the time between matches.
The final takes place in Yokohama on 2 November.