GAA to broadcast unprecedented number of matches this season

All games from four football leagues and divisions 1A and 1B in hurling to be covered

Limerick’s Declan Hannon lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup after the victory over Waterford at Croke Park in December. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Limerick’s Declan Hannon lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup after the victory over Waterford at Croke Park in December. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

The GAA will be covering an unprecedented number of matches in the coming season. Last year demonstrated the potential of streaming and that is going to continue this year with coverage of all divisions of the football league plus divisions 1A and 1B of the hurling.

That will be followed by full coverage of the Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy cups.

Noel Quinn, the GAA’s senior marketing and media rights manager, confirmed that this season’s broadcast schedules would be more extensive than ever.

“On the intercounty front, we did two rounds of the league and also every championship match that wasn’t televised. That will be the model we’ll follow this year.

“It will be the biggest broadcast schedule ever put together. Not every match was broadcast previously because people were able to attend but with no possibility of getting inside the venues, it’s great that we’ll have more than 100 games available on broadcast.

“It’s funny. It took a pandemic for us to really think about what the future holds. The GAA were always forward thinking when it came to streaming because it’s now the seventh year of GAAGO. The key differentiator there is that it was originally set up to serve an overseas market.

“When the pandemic hit, we looked at the no-crowds equals a need to broadcast in the domestic market. We’ve been doing this for seven years and a lot of other sports bodies in Europe would seek our counsel on how we set it up and what we do, the pitfalls. So that’s great for an amateur association.

“Last year was phenomenal in championship, Allianz league and particularly from a local streaming perspective.”

The full schedule of coverage has yet to be thrashed out and according to Quinn, this would be based on three principles.

“The first task is to get as much TV coverage as possible because that’s the maximum immediate impact and reach. The second key thing is to make sure that there’s as little overlap as can be managed so you can watch Donegal and Tyrone in football before switching over to Limerick versus Tipp hurling. Where do the OTT [over the top] streaming services complement the TV schedule?

“You’re at the mercy of streaming quality and my heart goes out to counties who have had big matches disrupted. We’re not living in a 5G, 6G or 7G super-fibre broadband environment so there’s always that volatility but we make the best of it.”

All elite championship matches will be covered and counties in the lower divisions of the hurling league will be permitted to organise their own streaming. Like last year, the final of the McDonagh Cup is expected to be shown by RTÉ and the Ring, Rackard and Meagher Cups will broadcast on TG4.

Quinn says that there were some interesting trends worldwide last year, which showed a drop in some of the biggest sporting events’ TV audiences. Although that has adjusted itself so far this year, it appears counterintuitive that with people in lockdown around the world, live sport should have seen such a tuning-out.

“People have never had as much to watch. Yet interestingly, last year globally the viewership of all big sports events tumbled, across Europe and particularly in the American market. Everything from the Stanley Cup to the NBA playoffs with the Lakers to the NFL, the Masters, the US Open, the Kentucky derby all plummeted.

“There was nearly nothing that proved bulletproof. It’s already begun to correct itself with the new season. The impact on NFL was probably more limited but there was still a hit. I think it was because people were so fatigued from sitting in front of a screen.

“To counter that people watched a little less live sport but moved in their droves to non-matchday content such as this ‘episodic’ or ‘shoulder’ programming like Netflix ‘Drive to Survive’ or the ‘All or Nothing’, Philadelphia Eagles’ behind the scenes documentary.

“People flocked to that sort of programme. Formula 1 has really kicked on because of that Netflix series. The Bahrain grand prix had the biggest viewing in that week because of the bounce from that documentary. Sports bodies saw a huge rise in their documentary programming, which provided an injection into their live action because of that.”

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