GAA believes RTÉ online streaming trumps Sky deal

Peter McKenna says “this is the most important part of the broadcasting deal”

GAA commercial director Peter McKenna believes the online streaming partnership with RTÉ, which goes live next month, has greater long-term value than the Sky Sports broadcasting deal.

“Personally I think this is the most important part of the broadcasting deal,” McKenna said at the GAAGO launch in Montrose yesterday. “This is setting our future out. “In 10 years I think we’ll look back and say this is probably the most important thing we’ve done.”

The bulk target audience, McKenna insisted, is North America but this new service will be available anywhere in the world where there is internet access.

There are restrictions in year one, of a six-year plan, with the subscription of €110 (excluding Ireland and Britain) for all 45 matches from the hurling and football championships.


The 25 games broadcast on RTÉ Two will cost €60 from Britain with the 14 games allocated exclusively to Sky Sports unavailable.

Up until the All-Ireland quarter-finals, a pay-per-game option will cost €10, increasing to €14 thereafter. The Sky Sports day pass, just available in Britain, costs £9.99 (€12.22).

Both the GAA and RTÉ are planning to break even in 2014, but will be adding league games next season along with additional analysis only available on the platform.

“There will be more than just what you can pirate,” said Múirne Laffan, managing director of RTÉ digital. “(Illegal streaming) is a problem for all contents. It’s a reality but there is anecdotal data out there that tells us if you can get it legitimately you will pay for it.”

McKenna was adamant that initially turning a profit from this new venture is “not really our priority to be honest”.

“What we wanted to do was respond to the demand of the thousands of fans all over the world who have been saying we need a different way of accessing our games. We needed to get a very strong production partner, someone who understands the digital space and understands our games.

"So we're not looking at anything but a break-even. That would be year one. We will see what happens then."

National broadcaster
Yesterday's launch came after two years research by the national broadcaster into the international premium digital market. "That research shows international audiences want access to more Irish content, particularly sport and particularly GAA," said Noel Curran, RTÉ director general.

“People are willing to subscribe for this, particularly in the United States market. From an RTÉ perspective this is very, very important for us.”

Bars and clubs in America can still purchase live matches from, who are also the commercial rights holder for Gaelic games broadcasting in Britain.

The RTÉ Player will provide a free service of games until mid-June, with the Sunday Game highlights package permanently remaining part of their free content.

“We looked at American providers but we wanted to work with RTÉ,” said Páraic Duffy, GAA director general.

When it was put to McKenna that GAA Go makes the Sky deal somewhat redundant in a British context, he replied: “I think what Sky introduced to us is a 10.5 million UK audience because that platform will get all of our sports results and everything else out to that audience so what Sky will do is really agitate the market for us, and I think that’s important.

“But I would like to draw a distinction between what we do from a broadcast perspective and what we’re doing with GAA Go. GAA Go is where we want to drive all of our international coverage and while Sky will have some of the games exclusive to them, the majority of our matches and even games which are not shown live here will be available to an international audience.

“You’re not just restricted to buying a year pass, you can buy a match pass, you can buy a cluster of games as well.”

Neither body were willing to release the subscription figures needed to avoid running at a loss this year.

“It needs to be self-sustaining but we want it to have a fair price and we think that is a fair price and a price that the audience, as far as they’re telling us, will be happy to pay,” added Laffan.

Sky will reveal their championship anchor and Gaelic games pundits on Monday.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent