'This is good for Irish broadcasting' – TV3 chief defends lengthy ad breaks after claiming Six Nations TV rights
TV3 has said the decision to award the station the Six Nations broadcasting rights on a four-year deal beginning in 2018 is good for Irish viewers.
TV3 has won the rights for the last two Rugby World Cups, but in a major blow for RTÉ, the national broadcaster has lost out to its rivals for the Six Nations when the current deal runs out in two years.
RTÉ 's Group Head of Sport Ryle Nugent has described the decision as "extremely disappointing", but TV3 chief executive David McRedmond has said it is positive announcement for Irish viewers and defended the advertising which became a major talking point during their World Cup coverage.
Irish viewers were particularly annoyed during the pool victory over France when team captain Paul O'Connell required oxygen and medical attention at the half-time whistle following a hamstring injury, but advertising requirements meant the majority of the ad break was taken over by commercials.
TV3 allows 12 minutes of advertisements every hour during live coverage as opposed to RTE's six minutes.
"We have to run more ads than RTÉ certainly because we don't get the licence fee, McRedmond told RTÉ Radio One's Drivetime programme. "There is a very clear difference."
"We deliver these matches free-to-air so viewers do not have to pay to see it. I wouldn't make this about an issue between RTÉ and TV3, this is good for Irish broadcasting, it's good for viewers.
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When pressed on viewer irritation over the ad breaks during live coverage, McRedmond remained defiant and added that TV3 coverage was far more comprehensive than RTÉ's during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand
The amount of panel time was given was absolutely sufficient and comparable to broadcasters anywhere else, particularly those that don't get stat subsidies.
"TV3 did something different to what RTE does," he said.
"It's important that viewers get fantastic coverage. The big difference, compared to the Rugby World Cup on RTÉ four years earlier, is RTÉ only showed 13 live matches. TV3 showed 48 matches live.
"In the previous World Cup, I doubt you would have seen that fantastic South Africa/Japan match which set the whole Rugby World Cup live."
TV3 will broadcast every game live and free-to-air for viewers in the Republic of Ireland from 2018 onwards and coverage will also include previews, magazine programmes and highlight shows as well as delayed match replays of all matches to complement live coverage.
Ryle Nugent insisted that RTÉ had put its "heart and soul" into the coverage but vowed to search for other opportunities in Irish and international sport.
"This is extremely disappointing news for RTÉ," he stated in a statement this afternoon. "We have a long and proud tradition of showcasing the 6 Nations and putting our heart and soul into our coverage.
"We want to assure the Irish public that every possible effort was made by RTÉ to retain these rights. As a public service broadcaster, RTÉ's ambition has always been, and continues to be, to deliver the best possible viewer experience and to share moments of major national importance.
"We put forward the best possible bid within our means, while always mindful of the significant responsibilities attached to spending public funds.