Eir Sport secures rights to Rugby World Cup 2019

Eir launches its rebranded Setanta channels as it announces six-channel sports pack

Former Ireland captian Brian O’Driscoll at the launch of Eir Sport: the company also secured the rights to the under-20s championship and the woman’s World Cup. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Former Ireland captian Brian O’Driscoll at the launch of Eir Sport: the company also secured the rights to the under-20s championship and the woman’s World Cup. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

“We’re setting sport free” was the tagline Eir Sport – Setanta reborn – delivered before informing the Irish public they have locked up the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Granted, Ireland’s pool matches and the knockout rounds will be released on a free-to-air channel to be decided in the not too distant future.

In the meantime, a fine array of male sports personalities from Brian O’Driscoll to the recently retired Luke Fitzgerald, on to Kieran McGeeney then Harry Redknapp and Robbie Fowler were wheeled before many microphones in Heuston South Quarter of a cloudy Tuesday in this soulless July.

None of them were asked about Eir Sport securing exclusive (Republic of Ireland only) rights. Journalists were far too busy mining for intelligence about their captivating careers, mostly past but some present, with the unspoken quid pro quo to ensure this rebranding gets spread far and wide (however, no grammatically respectable sub-editor would allow “eir Sport” keep its small “e”).

Such is the financial muscle of the largest telecommunications operator in Ireland, only a brief discussion was needed in World Rugby offices before taking exclusive rights away from TV3, as they took from RTÉ before them and have done for the Six Nations from 2018.

Nonetheless, those long advertising breaks will probably resurface in between Japanese rugby matches. That was the main criticism of TV3, recently acquired by Virgin Media, during their coverage of the 2015 World Cup.

Maybe that will influence the next key battle – for secondary rights. This deal ensures 13 of the most important 48 matches will be made available for a single free-to-air broadcaster to show live. TV3, TG4 and RTÉ are all expected to make compelling arguments about why it should be them.

Launch

“It’s a fantastic way to launch the new Eir Sport brand.”

World Rugby are yet to award broadcasting rights in the UK and that will include Northern Ireland. But to fend off BT Sport and or Sky Sports, BBC recently went into partnership with ITV to retain partial control of the Six Nations.

Eir, having purchased Setanta Sports Ireland Ltd in December 2015, also took this opportunity to announce their sports pack which includes Eir Sport 1 and Eir Sport 2 along with BT Sport, BT Sport 2, BT Sport Europe and BT Sport ESPN.

Guinness Pro12

The Guinness Pro12 is the next competition they hope to covet as the Sky Sports deal ends next year.

“Yeah, it is,” confirmed Brian Quinn, Eir Sport operations director. “The combination of content that we have on our two Eir Sport channels and BT are getting very strong in rugby between 35 ERCC games and the Aviva Premiership games and other stuff so we would like to put something on the table from our side. Today is a great step in that regard.

The 2017 woman’s Rugby World Cup, taking place in Dublin and Belfast, will also be televised by Eir Sport and they intend to “show more live TV Paralympics coverage than any other Irish broadcaster at the Rio Olympics”.

RTÉ has reached an agreement with Discovery Communications to be the Irish free-to-air broadcaster for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018 and the 2020 Tokyo Games. The BBC did a wider ranging sub-licensing deal, which covers the next five Games. World Rugby clearly noticed the changing winds and reacted accordingly.

Who from RTÉ, TV3 or even TG4 gets the next best thing is a decision that will be made solely by the former State-owned telecommunications company. Because they have wrestled majority control of the rugby broadcasting landscape.

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