Not the apocalypse but TV3 analysis may be damned
Mary Hannigan: Advertising breaks set to enrage purists who yearn for old ways of RTÉ
The TV3 presentation team that covered the 2015 Ruby World Cup. We can expect the see some of the same faces during the 2018 Six Nations Championship. Photograph: Pat Murphy/Sportsfile.
George Hook reminded listeners of the Ray D’Arcy Show on RTÉ, lest anyone was under a mistaken impression, that sporting bodies aren’t religious institutions, so the Irish rugby people shouldn’t be admonished for accepting TV3’s bulkier cheque in return for the broadcasting rights to the 2018 to 2021 Six Nations. They were simply doing what sporting bodies should do: looking after number one.
There were plenty, though, who regarded the news as ungodly, the social media machine detonating, a Rowan Copeland, for one, responding thusly: “May God have mercy on us all.”
The Lord’s name might well have been taken in vain in the corridors of Montrose too when they were informed they’d been outbid by TV3, as if losing the rugby World Cup wasn’t enough, but while RTÉ still get to air the 2016 and 2017 tournaments, absence was already making hearts grow fonder.
Rare enough thing
Mind you, it was probably less about affection for RTÉ and more about the two key factors in the hair-on-fire reaction to the news: (1) Sport on telly watchers are traumatised by change (Witness, say, the meltdown when Sky got hold of some GAA games, or golf fans throwing a wobbly after Sky nicked the rights to the British Open from the BBC.) and (2) those TV3 rugby World Cup ad breaks.
On the first factor, if you’d a euro for every rugby fan who said they almost missed Hook during the World Cup, you’d have outbid TV3.
They might have flung their remotes at the screen whenever he opined during RTÉ’s rugby coverage, much like football fans do when Eamon Dunphy pops us, or Gaelic football devotees do when Joe Brolly emotes. Showbiz. But a bit like the cranky Grandda in the armchair in the corner, he’d do your head in, but you’d half miss him when he’s gone. Part of the furniture, like.
And when it was all going a bit stale, RTÉ stepped up by bringing in contributors who’d actually played rugby in the last half century, Ronan O’Gara and Shane Horgan, in particular, welcome fresh voices.
Meanwhile, the ads. They wrecked the nation’s collective head during the World Cup, it was like watching the Super Bowl, who could forget that startling stat from Ireland’s final group game against France: The half-time break lasted 14.04 minutes, just 1.42 minutes of which was given over to analysis from the panel. And when Paul O’Connell lay prostrate, we were being sold manly vehicles, when we really should have been there with him in his moments of need.
Some of us have Aunties who only watch live sporting coverage for the chat, and then get on with the gardening while the game is on. The TV3 swoop is, frankly, catastrophic for them.
Twelve minutes of ads every hour during live coverage, versus RTE’s six. Can we survive the difference? Go on, we can.
If our British friends can cope with ITV sharing Six Nations coverage with the BBC, we can do anything.
For now, it might feel like Donald Trump winning the US presidency, as opposed to the possibly safer hands of Hillary, but you’d hope there’d never be a dull moment.
Which there were during TV3’s World Cup coverage, at times it felt like a triple by-pass was being analysed, instead of what were joyful sporting occasions, not least when Ireland were motoring nicely. That’s a balance RTÉ is obliged to strike, catering for the diehards who want forensic analysis, and the inflatable-banana-waving crew who just want to revel in the day. Bill O’Herlihy was the expert on getting that balance right, TV3 need to find someone who can do the same.
Not the apocalypse
The good news is that it’s not the apocalypse, it’s not like it’s gone to Sky. It’s free, your back pocket won’t be emptied.
The worry for RTÉ, of course, is that the GAA, FAI et al will be scratching their chins going, “hmmm...’.
At which point the sport-loving licence-fee-payer will ask, where’s my loot going?
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo on RTÉ of a Saturday afternoon is not what they had in mind.