For all the GAA’s assurance that people will get used to the idea of their subscription streaming service GAAGo, a joint venture with RTÉ, it was always likely that coverage of its second-season schedules would focus on what counties were most affected by matches going behind a paywall.
Association president Larry McCarthy and Noel Quinn, Head of GAAGo, took the questions at the 2024 launch in Croke Park on Monday.
One of the first issues raised was the furore over last season’s schedules and the paywall around a number of high-profile Munster hurling championship fixtures, which was criticised by, amongst others, Tanáiste Micheál Martin on the basis that it restricted rather than promoted the game.
He will hardly be placated by the news that three of Cork’s hurling matches will be carried by the service during next year’s Munster championship.
“There are four Munster hurling matches and two of those are on Sunday afternoons at the same time as an RTÉ match,” said Quinn, pointing out that there would be fewer fixtures from the province on the streaming service in 2024.
“RTÉ made their picks and two of those four wouldn’t have been broadcast anywhere if GAAGo didn’t broadcast them so rather than go dark, better to pick them up. Then we’ve two Saturdays so we had five [Munster SHC games] this year and four next year.”
Two of the Cork games, against Clare and Waterford are on Sundays and surplus to RTÉ’s requirements whereas the meeting with champions Limerick is scheduled for Saturday, May 11th.
It was a Saturday fixture last year, between Limerick and Clare that provoked most unhappiness at its being behind a paywall. It culminated in what remains the only defeat that Limerick have suffered in the championship since 2019.
The match turned out to have been originally intended for a Sunday (making it part of RTÉ’s selection) but the with the Great Limerick Run scheduled for the same day, the hurling was switched to Saturday on the advice of gardaí.
By and large RTÉ exercises its rights to Sunday matches whereas GAAGo takes the old Saturday slots once held by Sky Sports. There are, as Quinn explained, crossovers but they arise when RTÉ has already registered its choice of Sunday fixture, leaving some available for streaming or when RTÉ is obliged to show some Saturday matches – such as provincial finals to which it holds all the media rights.
Asked did he think the GAA weathered the storm on the matter, McCarthy queried the phraseology but essentially agreed.
“Everything new has a bedding-in period and I think this will bed in very well. People simply get used to it. It’s an exciting schedule. I’m not so sure I’d use the phrase, ‘weather the storm’ but we’ll continue to introduce new elements and see where it goes.”
He also stressed that it is the provincial councils which make the fixtures in the first place and not the Central Competitions Control Committee.
Quinn added that a review conducted had not revealed major unhappiness with the pricing structure, which he pointed out would not be increased even after the inflationary pressures of recent years.
On the subject of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), whose permission had not been obtained for the expansion of GAAGo from an overseas service to one operating in the domestic market, the GAA have decided to proceed until the CCPC intervene.
“We didn’t have to get it because it was a two-year arrangement,” according to McCarthy. “Anything longer than a two-year arrangement, we would have had to. We’ve engaged with the agency and they are quite happy. We engaged with them last August and haven’t heard back from them.”
Quinn expanded on this.
“There’s been good engagement with them. If any regulatory body, whether it’s Coimisiún na Meán [media regulator] or CCCP come looking for information, expediency and giving whatever information they seek back quickly is our modus operandi.
“To date there has been different periods of consultation but they have sought certain things and information. Some of the information is around the two-year deal and what happen at the end of that – for which there is no plan.
“The CCPA they are not investigating. They are merely looking for information.
“A notification wasn’t necessary based on the term of that two-year domestic deal, which was commensurate with the joint Oireachtas committee as well. There certainly hasn’t been a breach flagged in any shape or form. But like that we’ll continue working with the CCPA if they have any feedback.”
Is the basis of this that if the CCPA has an issue, they’ll get back to Croke Park?
“Absolutely. That is the consideration we gave before we stepped into the domestic market. The advice we had sought around whether it required a notification or not. Until further notice.”
According to Quinn, the cost of covering matches ranges from €12,000 tor €15,000 all the way up to €80,000, depending on venues and the number of cameras deployed. He added that GAAGo has been profitable in its first year.
He also said that there was “a war” on what are known as ‘dodgy boxes,’ which facilitate the piracy of subscription streams.
“So we are absolutely a victim of dodgy boxes, as are Amazon Prime or Sky or Netflix or Disney. We have consulted with a lot of different people and it is a war and how much of the battle you want to do is the question.
“There’s a lot more third-party policing of them, Ireland has the highest consumption or purchase rate of dodgy boxes a year apparently and my estimate – and it is an estimate – would be that there’s hundreds of thousands of them in Ireland. That’s not targeting GAAGo – it’s targeting GAAGo, Sky and everyone else. So it’s certainly an issue.”
Connacht SFC Quarter-final: London v Galway
Connacht SFC Quarter-final: New York v Mayo
Leinster SFC Quarter-final: Kildare v Westmeath / Wicklow
Munster SFC Semi-final: Kerry v Cork / Limerick
Munster SHC RR1: Waterford v Cork
Leinster SHC RR2: Antrim v Wexford
Ulster SFC Semi-final: Fermanagh/Armagh v Down/Antrim
Munster SHC RR2: Cork v Clare
Leinster SFC Semi-final 1
Leinster SFC Semi-final 2
Munster SHC RR3: Waterford v Tipperary
Leinster SHC RR3: Wexford v Galway
Munster SHC RR3: Cork v Limerick
Leinster SHC RR3: Carlow v Kilkenny
Tailteann Cup Rd 1 game
Round Robin SFC Rd 1 x 2 games
Tailteann Cup Rd 2 game
Leinster SHC RR4: Dublin v Kilkenny
Round Robin SFC1 x 2 games
Leinster SHC RR5: TBC v TBC
Round Robin SFC Rd2 x 2 games
Tailteann Cup Rd 3 game
Tailteann Cup Preliminary Quarter Finals x 2 games
Round Robin SFC Rd 3 x 2 games
Tailteann Cup Quarter-finals x 2 games
Round Robin SFC Rd 3 x 1 game
All-Ireland SFC Preliminary Quarter-finals x 4 games
All-Ireland SFC Quarter-finals x 2 games