How to watch the 2017 Six Nations in America and beyond

Image for post
Image for post
Image courtesy of the telegraph.co.uk

Unless you live in a tier-1 nation like Australia, Argentina, France, New Zealand, South Africa, or the United Kingdom, getting top-quality rugby on television is a challenge. In the US and Canada for example, the most consistent source of world-class rugby content has been the local Irish pub who can often pay upwards of $3000 for the rights to broadcast an entire championship.

While I am happy to trot down to my local at 7AM, pay a cover fee, and have some of the liquid blackness for breakfast, it’s not always convenient, especially if you want to see every match and maintain a happy home life.

So it was a welcome change about 5 years ago when top-tier championships like Super Rugby began appearing on satellite TV. And recently, we’ve seen domestic professional matches being broadcast live on YouTube, which these days can make it’s way to your big-screen TV easily.

But the Six Nations championship — perhaps the most popular annual rugby championship on the planet—has remained elusive. A consistent way to watch the entire 6 Nations has simply not appeared. And with ever-increasing licensing costs, I suspect the availability to remain tightly controlled and restricted.

As you can see below, rugby fans in the minnow nations can get their hands on the Six Nations matches in a variety of ways. I’ve listed them in order of reliability, but each has it’s own pros and cons.

You‘ll probably need to be a little tech-savvy so please comment below if you’re confused or having trouble.

Option 1 — Official broadcasts via VPN

Total cost to watch entire championship = $14
Video Quality:
Excellent
Reliability:
Excellent
Security Risk:
Very Low
Live Coverage:
Yes

Virtual Private Networks or VPNs are what people use to pretend they are in a different geographic location than they actually are. It’s what your friends use to watch US Netflix when traveling abroad for example.

In the case of the Six Nations, the the entire championship is broadcast live in the UK over two networks: BBC and ITV. And each has a great web player and also apps for your mobile devices.

By using a VPN, you can impersonate a local viewer from the UK and thus get the live broadcast for free. You’ll get high-quality, live coverage without any weird popups, unsavory content, or security risks. The trick is to find low-cost, reliable VPN service provider.

Many people have used the free VPN provider called Hola, but in my experience it is unreliable. Instead, I recommend TunnelBear. You can get up to 2GB of bandwidth free with TunnelBear, but I recommend purchasing a plan so your data doesn’t run out mid-match.

Image for post
Image for post
https://www.tunnelbear.com/

TunnelBear costs $7 per month and you only need it for 2 months to watch the entire Six Nations. You can also get the annual plan for just $4/month so you can have convenient access to England and other tests that BBC and ITV carry, as well as the Aviva Premiership and Guinness PRO12.

Now, keep in mind that BBC and ITV have signed contracts saying that they won’t share the Six Nations outside the UK border. So there are still a few tricks to get things working smoothly.

1. Install the Google Chrome web browser (download here).

2. Launch Google Chrome and install the TunnelBear plugin from the Chrome web Store (view Tunnelbear plugin).

3. Open the settings/preferences for Chrome. Select the Extensions tab on the left. Find TunnelBear in the list and check/enable the option to Allow in incognito.

Image for post
Image for post

4. If necessary, visit tunnelbear.com and purchase a plan (or take your chances and try it free).

5. In Chrome, open an Incognito window from the File menu. Click the TunnelBear icon as shown below. Select United Kingdom and Connect. Computer systems around the world should now see you as a UK resident.

Image for post
Image for post

6. Visit tunnelbear.com and login with your paid account.

7. In the address bar, type google.co.uk and search for either BBC iPlayer or ITV Hub. I do NOT recommend bookmarking these sites once you find them: it’s best to search for them each time.

BBC: When asked whether or not you have a BBC license, choose: Yes.

ITV: You need to create a free account in order to use ITV. I recommend using a free GMail or Yandex account that is not linked to your name, phone or anything like that. In any case, you’ll need to provide a UK postcode. Just select a random area from this map and select one of the postcodes listed.

8. Browse to the sports sections or if you know the kickoff time and exact channel (i.e. BBC1, BBC2, etc…) just select as appropriate.

9. Once the feed is working, stream the match to your TV using Chromecast, Airplay, etc…

Troubleshooting: If you did NOT set things up right, you will get a playback error. Reboot your PC and try again. If it still fails, try another method.

Using a mobile device: TunnelBear has apps for Android and iOs. Once you install and configure the app, repeat the process above using the mobile versions of the Google Chrome browser, or even use the BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub apps.

On-demand viewing: The BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub typically allow you to replay matches if you want to watch them again or view one that you missed.

Option 2 — Rogue broadcasts

Total cost to watch entire championship: $0
Video Quality:
Variable
Reliability:
Average
Security Risk:
Moderate
Live Coverage:
Effectively (10 second delay at most)

What I like to call Rouge Broadcasts appear to be someone with a live feed pumping the content live through a computer and then sharing a live stream of that content. This can sometimes cause a short delay, but for the average viewer there is no practical difference to a live broadcast.

While rogue broadcasts are totally free, the quality is highly variable and the video sometimes freezes, especially when the action heats up. It’s also unreliable, plagued by pop-up ads and weird chat windows, and you’ll often find yourself being tricked into clicking somewhere you don’t want to.

Although the selection is usually great (it’s common to be able to choose which country’s commentators you prefer), the vast majority of the feeds require Adobe Flash for playback. In fact, I have yet to find a high-quality stream that does NOT use Flash. So if you are on a Mac or iOS device like iPhone or iPad, you’re not going to be able to get the best video quality.

As with VPNs, once you get the video playing, you can stream it to your TV using a variety of methods.

There really isn’t any special setup required to uses the rogue broadcasts, you just need to try them — in advance of course — so you know how to avoid the popups and get things working right. I’ve had success with VIPBOX in the past, but there are a host of these sites to choose from.

Image for post
Image for post
VIPBOX

Troubleshooting: The fullscreen button is a little small on these sites. If the feed stops or hangs, you may need to refresh the page and re-start the feed, or select a different feed.

Warning: It is likely that some of the popups will display nudity. Just close the popups and you should be able to proceed without more popups. Also, do NOT disable your ad-blocker or security software no matter what these sites say. You should be able to view these sites without making any changes to your PC and without installing any software.

Option 3 — Eversport.tv

Total cost to watch entire championship = $120
Video Quality:
Unknown (probably good)
Reliability:
Unknown (probably good)
Security Risk:
Low
Live Coverage:
Yes

Eversport is a relatively unknown entity when it comes to rugby broadcasting and appears to have earned a good reputation with college sports. Notably, Eversport did partner with Rugbytown USA last year to stream some matches from the Pacific Rugby Premiership.

This year it looks like they have the entire Six nations championship available live for $120 or $20 per match.

While this is the most expensive option, it appears to also be the most legit. Since this is the first year they will carry the Six Nations, I’ll take a look to see how the quality and reliability is when the championship starts and I will update this post accordingly.

While relatively expensive, this is likely a good live option with little to no technical barriers nor offensive popups.

Image for post
Image for post
Eversport

Option 4 — The Rugby Channel

Total cost to watch entire championship = $10
Video Quality:
Excellent
Reliability:
High
Security Risk:
Low
Live Coverage:
No (24 hour delay)

The Rugby Channel is a reliable, inexpensive option for those of you who can stay off social media for 24 hours.

At just $5 per month, you’ll get the full 2017 Six Nations championship on tape-delay, plus lots of live content like the Americas Rugby Championship, the Anglo-Welsh Cup, and Guinness Pro12.

This is also a very legitimate option with no ads or offensive content.

Image for post
Image for post
The Rugby Channel

Option 5 — Torrent Downloads

Total cost to watch entire championship = $0
Video Quality:
Excellent
Reliability:
Good
Security Risk:
Low
Live Coverage:
No

Before VPNs like TunnelBear and Rogue Broadcasts, downloading the match and watching it at home was the most reliable way to watch test matches like those in the Six Nations.

For rugby, perhaps the best community for downloading matches is Across The Tasman. This is a torrenting site, meaning that you download files (in this case, video files) from a network of community members who have also downloaded the video. It’s basically crowdsourcing the file sharing process.

While cheap, high quality, reliable, and safe, Across The Tasman never has live content, but nearly every match you can dream of is there, including a library of historical matches.

Also, membership is by invitation only and in order to keep your access, you have to share back as much as you download. Aside from legal issues, your internet service provider may also object if you start sharing lots of files in this way.

Image for post
Image for post
Across The Tasman

Option 6 — Traditional Networks

Total cost to watch entire championship = Bundled with TV subscription
Video Quality:
Excellent
Reliability:
Very Low
Security Risk:
None
Live Coverage:
Sometimes

Over the years, the Six Nations championship has been broadcast by various networks such as BBC America, ESPN, and on DirectTV the seemingly unknown rugby channel 490/491. For 2017, beIN Sports and Premium Sports are getting in on the action.

The real problem with traditional networks and cable/satellite companies is that most are not willing to pay for or are not able to obtain the rights to broadcast the full championship live. That leaves viewers confused and wondering what matches will be broadcast in any given year, or relegates all broadcasts on a 24-hour delay.

While this option is ideal from a quality and security perspective, the extreme lack of reliability makes traditional the last and least useful option for any discerning fan.

Long-time rugger, retired scientist and entrepreneur.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store