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Saturday 10 December 2016

Neither party could afford to allow this deal to fold

Published 26/10/2016 | 02:30

Dublin's Paul Flynn, left and Bernard Brogan lifts the Sam Maguire after victory over Mayo Picture: Damien Eagers
Dublin's Paul Flynn, left and Bernard Brogan lifts the Sam Maguire after victory over Mayo Picture: Damien Eagers

There should be no surprise the GAA is heading towards a renewal of its deal with Sky Sports for exclusive coverage of some of its championship matches again.

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Not to have followed through after the initial deal would have been an admission, by both parties, that it was a failure.

A company like Sky Sports could never countenance beating a retreat like that.

And the GAA had to turn the cheek to criticism after weathering the initial storm.

So with a likely extension of five years, the partnership will have a real opportunity to bed down. By 2021, both the GAA and Sky Sports will know if there is a real future.

But the figures show that Sky Sports is, so far, making only a small impact.

Last month, UCD lecturer Paul Rouse, one of the original deal's most ardent critics, revealed that the average Sky Sports viewership figure for Ireland for the drawn All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Mayo was 9,400 compared to 928,000 who tuned into RTÉ.

One of the cornerstones of striking the deal with Sky Sports in the first place was the reach to new audiences that it could provide but in the UK, the viewership figures have not set the world alight either. By contrast, the new international coverage vehicle, GAAGo, which gets into over 140 countries around the world, is thriving.

But the need to maximise revenues from the golden ticket that is TV rights and to keep competition healthy has supplanted the downside of reduced penetration for certain games. More money from the TV deals can mean more money for hard-pressed clubs in the long run.

However, across the country, opposition to partnership with pay-per-view has been rising, with Mayo and Sligo county councils joining the local authorities in Kerry and Galway in voicing concern.

Irish Independent

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