TV3 plans high-definition Rugby World Cup

Station will broadcast all 42 matches of 2015 tournament after beating RTÉ to the rights

TV3 has confirmed  it won the rights to Rugby World Cup 2015. Photograph: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

TV3 has confirmed it won the rights to Rugby World Cup 2015. Photograph: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

 

TV3’s group director of broadcasting and the executive producer of its rugby 2015 World Cup coverage Niall Cogley said yesterday that not only was it the station’s intention to cover all 42 matches in the tournament on TV3 or 3e, but they will be in high definition.

Insomuch as one can ascertain from social media, there appears to be misgivings about the IRB awarding coverage of the 2015 tournament to TV3 for a bid generally believed to be about €3-4 million, since this was revealed in The Irish Times on Saturday, and which was confirmed yesterday.

Significant among these is that the channel does not have HD. “We’re in conversations with the three main platforms here,” said Cogley. “That’s Sky, UPC and Saorview. Crudely, the pipes need to be bigger to carry that level of quality, and that, in the case of satellite means transponder space. There is a bit of cost there and it’s not just up to us, so we’ve got to work those agreements with the platforms.”

‘Different route’
They may have to “take a different route, probably into the UK”, all of which sounds problematic between now and September 2015, but Cogley said: “No, it will be. We’ll have an HD service for the Rugby World Cup. Because whether it’s the UK or the Irish route, we’re going to get it.”

Cogley, the son of former RTÉ rugby commentator Fred Cogley and a former head of sport in RTÉ as well as a co-founder of Setanta Sports, did not rule out sub-leasing some games to interested Irish broadcasters, as Setanta did when selling some games in the 2007 World Cup in France to TV3. “We wouldn’t rule it out but we would prefer to have them all on TV3 and 3e which are both free-to-air channels but let’s see what interest there is from the other broadcasters on the island.”

TV3 have “plenty of ideas” on their choices of commentators, co-commentators presenters and pundits, but “all have to be put together. I’ve done this a few times and each one has been different,” said Cogley, who inferred that TV3 will endeavour to satisfy both committed and casual rugby fans.

He said: “If the Irish team does well, then you get a chance to coat-tail that. If the Irish team does horribly, then everybody goes around looking for someone else to blame.”

Given that rugby in Ireland is a 32-county game, and with the 2023 World Cup bid in mind, it seemed reasonable to ask IRB chief executive Brett Gosper if the IRB was bothered by Irish rugby fans in Northern Ireland not having access to TV3, even if ITV will also be covering the tournament.

“No, is the short answer. In terms of this World Cup in 2015, it was a very rigorous tender process. In terms of programming and presentation and obviously money it was a clear winner. So no it [TV3 not being north of the border] is not worrying us.”

“We can’t reveal what the bids were, that’s really up to the businesses, but it [TV3] was a higher bid,” said Gosper. “It was competitive and all the broadcasters participated in Ireland, so they did well to come out with it,” said Gosper.

Head of RTÉ sport Ryle Nugent said: “We’re extremely disappointed. It is another very clear sign as to just how competitive the sports rights market is in this territory. It is competitive with RTÉ, TV3, Setanta, TG4, Sky, BT and others, because we’re competing for audiences even when we have rights, with BBC, ITV and Channel 4. It’s as competitive a territory as there exists in Europe.”

A year ago RTÉ director general Noel Curran announced a 25 per cent reduction in the cost of sports rights to RTÉ. So, according to Nugent, the national broadcaster’s “prioritised national teams, national games and major events and, up until this point, we have been pretty successful in reducing our rights’ cost while maintaining that position.

“ The Rugby World Cup was part of that strategy but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be successful, and it is disappointing. There’s no way around it.”

Gosper also confirmed that there was anecdotal evidence of bids for the 2023 World Cup in the offing from South Africa, Italy, the US, Argentina and potentially Australia, as well as Ireland, with the tendering process in 2016 before a decision is made in July 2017. “It is a very open competition . . . Good bids will have a chance. Ireland is obviously going to be an excellent bid. It’s in a very good time zone, it has terrific infrastructure and it’s a great rugby passionate nation.”

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