GAA to announce broadcasting deal with Sky Sports

Putting championship matches behind pay wall and dropping TV3 will be controversial

Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 01:00

Ireland is one of Sky’s biggest growth areas and with BT expected to concentrate on English rugby clubs in whatever deal they strike with their rival in respect of the new European rugby competition, Sky will have an attractive package for the rugby viewer, as they are also replacing RTÉ as TG4’s partners in showing Celtic League matches.

Having access to GAA championship fixtures will help to combat seasonal churn in their subscription numbers – which generally occurs during the summer when soccer and rugby followers drop out until their seasons re-commence. There will also be Gaelic games followers who already subscribe to the channels.

Up for grabs
Sky will also be able to show matches from their packages in Britain, although overseas rights to other packages appear to be up for grabs.

Although the GAA have long pined for real competition in the television rights market, it was always felt they would consider themselves restricted in the type of deals they could realistically strike.

As recently as last year, association director general Páraic Duffy in Michael Moynihan’s GAAconomics: The Secret Life of Money in the GAA , told the author:

“With our TV rights we’re constrained, rightly, because we wouldn’t get away with selling the rights to the championship to Sky Sports or somebody like that, even though those organisations have expressed an interest.”

It’s likely he intended the statement to refer to exclusive rights but more significantly later last year the GAA’s commercial director Peter McKenna told Today FM:

“We have an open agenda on this one. What we’re charged with, is to get the best deal for the Association. That’s not necessarily the most money but it’s certainly where we’ll get the best TV coverage, exposure and marketing and push for our games and benefit long-term.

“Obviously a pay-wall would cause some issues, but we’ve been with a pay-wall when we’ve been with Setanta. So the leagues are behind a pay-wall for the Setanta coverage.”

Given the task of conducting the broadcast renegotiations, McKenna has taken his cue to maximise revenue and within the industry there has been acknowledgement that he pitched the packages inventively, including something of value in them all with a view to enhancing revenue.

He may, however, be about to find out that although the GAA return 80 per cent of their revenues to constituent units in the form of grants, there will be those within the membership – to say nothing of those without – who feel the association can make too much money.

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