Eir Sport to broadcast secondary club matches with new rights
Subscription channel will have exclusive rights to up to 30 club matches
Dave McIntyre, eir Sport commentator, Brian Quinn, marketing and operations director, and Ger Gilroy, eir Sport presenter at the announcement of the company’s five year deal to broadcast live club football and hurling championship games. Photograph: Inpho
Thursday’s announcement that Eir Sport had acquired rights to club matches for the next five years when the GAA’s new media rights deal begins in May is further evidence of the popularity of Gaelic games broadcasts.
The rights allocated to the broadcaster don’t cut across the established package held by TG4, which will continue to have first choice of two fixtures for each Sunday of the club campaign as well as exclusive coverage of the All-Ireland stages.
Given that the Irish language station shows two matches – one live and one deferred – on Sunday afternoons during the club season, effectively Eir Sport will be broadcasting matches from other days of the week.
GAA media rights holders are obliged to avoid clashes with each other’s broadcasts and although that is occasionally unavoidable it is kept to a minimum.
The preponderance of senior intercounty championship matches are broadcast live on RTÉ and others are available on subscription channel Sky, which also has exclusive British rights to the latter stages of the All-Irelands whereas the global audience can secure access through the increasingly successful GAAGO streaming service.
With the cost of sports rights internationally continuing to rise – earlier this month BT Sport beat Sky to exclusive coverage of Uefa Champions League and Europa League at a cost of £1.2 billion for the next three seasons – smaller broadcasters are able to pick up other events as budgets are increasingly absorbed by major international tournaments.
TG4 have acquired rights for instance to the IABA national boxing championships, which used to be broadcast on RTÉ.
It’s not clear what county championships eir will concentrate on – and it isn’t clear that the broadcaster will exercise its right to broadcast all 30 matches – but a likely target will be the Dublin championship, which tends to be played on weekdays and Saturdays, from as early as the quarter-finals; TG4’s coverage doesn’t start until county finals nearly all of which throw in mid-afternoon on Sundays.
In a season that takes place in an eight-to-10-week window there may also be overlaps on busy weekends when TG4 won’t be in a position to broadcast all the high-profile matches
It is also possible that Eir Sports will look at the possibility of providing deferred coverage of matches as opposed to live broadcasts all the time. Sports channels need content and being able to provide exclusive recordings of certain club matches would help to fill out the schedules.
Match coverage isn’t cheap for the broadcaster but the spec for club venues wouldn’t be as high as at Croke Park. Rough figures for the cost of match broadcast, including camera work, technicians, commentators and analysts come in at between €25,000 and €30,000 depending on the location.
The GAA’s media portfolio is growing all the time. One of the busiest areas of growth has been webcasting and companies such as Armagh TV and former GAA journalist Liam Horan’s Local Streaming cover many club matches online – including in the case of the latter, this year’s junior and intermediate club finals from Croke Park. Although permission has to be sought from the association in order to stream any match, rights fees aren’t always charged.
Eir Sports, which is available free to domestic customers of Eir’s broadband service, also broadcasts Saturday league matches as a result of its acquisition of Setanta.
“These are matches that haven’t previously been shown, and we are delighted to open them up to a wider audience,” said company MD Glen Killane. “We will show some big clashes within the AIB GAA club championships while broadcasting from parts of the country that the cameras don’t often visit.”