One of the most exciting things about Glen Killane's job is doing big broadcasting deals with some of the world's largest sporting organisations. Through his work with the sports arm of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), he strikes complex rights deals with the likes of Fifa, Uefa and the International Olympics Committee for TV and radio channels in the EU and further afield.
Like all of us, he is dealing with a new Covid-19 reality. For Killane, this means that the only event being covered at the moment is the Magnus Carlsen Invitational chess tournament.
Killane, who takes over as executive director of the EBU's Eurovision Sport on June 1, is naturally keen for sports to return to something approaching normality. He is realistic in his expectations.
"To be honest with you, I don't see a lot of sport going ahead with large crowds this year," he says. He expects most events to be behind closed doors or carried out with social-distancing measures.
"I think we'd take it at the moment. We'd take any kind of sport," adds Killane, who has been the deputy director of Eurovision Sport since 2018.
The EBU is made up predominantly of public service broadcasters around Europe. But it also has commercial members and broadcasters from further afield than the organisation's name suggests.
"We've 116 member organisations across 56 countries in Europe, north Africa and the Middle East. It extends from Russia to Iceland, from Finland down to Morocco, Algeria," explains the former RTÉ executive. "The reason for that is because the business originally was a satellite business. And that was the footprint of the satellite back in the day before they could manage the number of countries it was going to cover - effectively if you were covered by the satellite, you were open to membership."
Thus, the organisation covers 485 TV channels and 710 radio channels. Sport is just one aspect of the wider organisation's activities but one which plays a vital role for its members.
"We acquire sports rights on behalf of that membership. It's a collective bargaining," he says. "In a globalised world, even if you are a big organisation like the BBC, you are faced with global competition."
Those big entities include Discovery and Amazon. "You're stronger when you're working together. When you start putting the likes of the BBC together with ZDF and ARD (in Germany) and RAI in Italy, suddenly you have a little bit more say in the equation."
The interview process for Killane's promotion began just as Covid-19 was breaking as an issue for Europe. "It is a strange time and we're all in lockdown and having meetings remotely. It's very odd, it's a very strange thing, but I do believe sport will come back strong," he says.
Killane, who spent his early years in Sutton in north Dublin before moving to Malahide as a teenager, never set out for a career in sports broadcasting.
After studying journalism at DCU, he had intended to do a placement in Mexico "to become the next John Simpson". But a political controversy there meant he had to take an option closer to home. The only placement left on offer was sports at RTÉ, so he took it.
Although he had a stint with ITV Digital, much of his career has been with RTÉ, where he rose to the position of group head of sports and then managing director of television. He was tipped as a candidate for the job of director general, which was eventually filled by Dee Forbes.
The outgoing DG at the time, Noel Curran, is now Killane's boss once again as he is director general of the EBU.
Killane left RTÉ in July 2016 to head Eir's TV business, which included Eir Sport, formerly known as Setanta Sports. "Leaving RTÉ was a big decision, but I got a great offer from Eir," he says. "I always felt I wanted to really cut my teeth in the commercial world and it was just a golden opportunity in the Irish market to get in on something new, fresh and build it up."
"There was a new regime coming in at RTÉ as well, and I think it was a good opportunity for me to move on," he adds. "With any of those steps I have always just backed myself. There was a bit of a gamble and a bit of a risk leaving RTÉ, but I don't want just to hold down a position."
From the time he joined Eir, he knew the business was being built up for a sale and he would then have to decide whether to stay or go.
When a consortium led by French billionaire Xavier Niel bought a majority stake in Eir, Killane decided to move on and that was when the opportunity at the EBU came to his attention.
"It's kind of a dream job for me," he says. "It mixes the commercial side of sport with working with broadcasters across Europe, wholly public service broadcasters and commercial broadcasters, because quite a few of our members - like ITV or TV2 in Norway or TV2 in Denmark - are very commercial entities."
As attending live sports is unlikely to be feasible for some time, Killane hopes that broadcast sport will be even more important - for a time at least. "And I think making it freely available will also be important."
At points in the past decade, concerns emerged that big sports could disappear from public service broadcasters as commercial rivals took out their cheque books. Killane feels that some balance has since been struck between commercial and free-to-air (FTA) sport.
"About five or six years ago, I wouldn't have been as optimistic about free-to-air. But what a lot of sports federations, rights holders, want is security long-term, is to trust their partners," he says. "Because the last thing you want is to rely on a partner who is going to promise you the Earth, give you buckets of cash on paper and then not deliver.
"We're very confident in that free-to-air space about what we offer. We offer a great service, we offer security, a trusted partnership, and a long-term partnership, and we're also going to pay.
"What we need to do is tell our story a bit better. We're not just a one-trick pony. We do a hell of a lot on digital and we can really add value that way."
Yet there are huge shifts taking place in viewing habits, with the Covid-19 restrictions possibly accelerating some of those changes.
While viewers are tuning in to watch news in big numbers at the moment, there have been some shifts away from traditional television.
"I am a big admirer of his, but people like Reed Hastings from Netflix were predicting the death of linear television. It's a big statement to make and it grabs headlines, but I don't believe in extremes," he says.
"Netflix are going gangbusters at the moment because people are boxsetting themselves to death at home. What we have is an ecosytem that has live linear TV, that has an offering from FTA, as well as pay channels and it's working. But I think we have a very important part to play in that ecosystem."
He doesn't believe that all the streaming services can survive in any case.
"Some of them are great. Disney has had great success so far and Netflix has had great success, but there are thousands of other ones.
"Every sports federation is going direct-to- consumer and what you've got is thousands and thousands of cathedrals in the desert that look fantastic but nobody ever visits them.
"And what has to happen is that has to be aggregated, where people come together on singular platforms, and I think we can play a role at EBU in that. There is huge power in aggregation."
But there will be clear winners in the streaming space, including some relative newcomers to the area. "The likes of Disney have their very unique offering and Amazon are just a powerhouse."
One welcome development in the area of sports rights in recent years has been signs that price tags are no longer inflating wildly. "Who knows what's going to happen until Covid settles down and gets back to some sort of normality," says Killane.
"We were seeing signs that things were beginning to get more sensible. The last Premier League deal in the UK dropped by about 14pc. The bubble wasn't burst, but it was beginning to just level."
"Certainly, there will be a huge appetite for sport when it comes back because everyone has been starved of it," he says. "But I think there will be some deflationary element there."
It is a challenging time for many sports organisations which are on pause for the foreseeable future. The cancellation of championships will cause financial hardship for smaller sports in particular.
"A lot of these federations are not that cash-rich and it could be quite serious for them," he says.
As Killane eagerly awaits taking on his new role in June and the return of some sport, he is imagining how the EBU and its members will have to adapt to events which are likely to have restrictions.
"I am a former producer," he says. "I would definitely feed in the crowd noise even if the crowds are not there. I will quite happily live with it. I don't know if you saw those Champions League games from Italy just as the virus was breaking out. The last round of games were done behind closed doors and it was just weird."
Killane may have an international view of sports broadcasting, but some of his concerns about what is next for sport remain close to home.
"I am just devastated that I am not going to see Dublin win six in a row," he says with a smile. "You never know, they might get it together but if the championship doesn't go ahead this year, it's the only way of stopping Dublin I suppose."
Will take over as executive director of the EBU's Eurovision Sport on June 1
Works during the week in Geneva, Switzerland. Home is Julianstown, Co Meath
Catholic University School, Leeson Street, Dublin; BA in English literature at Trinity College; masters in journalism, DCU
Deputy director of Eurovision Sport, a role he has held since August 2018; former managing director of RTÉ Television
Partner Fiona. Children Pete, Evie, Dylan and Leo
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Another favourite is If This is a Man by Primo Levi
Cinema Paradiso is right up there
Best piece of business advice
I remember a quote I read from Teddy Roosevelt that gave me a lift at a difficult time in my career at RTÉ. It’s a long quote but starts with the phrase: “It is not the critic that counts…”
It basically means never mind the hurlers on the ditch; they will always find fault. Be a doer and just get on with it.
It’s back to my time in RTÉ, the weekend of the 1916 centenary, which I was executive lead on. I just thought that was an extraordinary weekend.
To have so many people on the streets of Dublin for a cultural event that we were central to — I was very proud to be associated with that.
Also, RTÉ Jr; to launch an ad-free children’s channel in the middle of a recession was a big deal.
Sunday Indo Business