TV3 wipes RTÉ's eye with broad deal for Champions League
TV3 has become the dominant player in coverage of the Champions League after securing exclusive rights for the final and for most live games next season.
RTÉ lost out on rights to broadcast the final, in what is being seen as a significant blow to the Montrose-based station.
TV3 outbid RTÉ and Eir Sport to take the lion's share of the Irish market for the next three seasons.
However, TV3 and Virgin Media failed to clarify whether their coverage of Europa and Uefa matches will be a free service or pay-to-view. It is unclear how Virgin will deliver this volume of matches - whether it will be broadcast on TV3, a subsidiary channel, or via an online streaming service. Asked whether viewers would have to pay additional fees to view the games, both Virgin and TV3 failed to clarify the position.
A spokesperson for Virgin told the Irish Independent: "Virgin Media and TV3 are simply announcing this landmark rights deal - which has just been established - and they will then be providing more information in due course."
RTÉ has retained a Tuesday slot, but TV3 will also be showing a live game that night due to a new schedule.
Kick-off times have been spread out from just one 7.45pm kick-off (Irish time) to two live slots (5.55pm) and (8pm) on both Tuesday and Wednesday. TV3 will have first pick for Wednesday and be able to show games at both kick-off times.
RTÉ has first pick on Tuesday, but TV3 will show a game in the other slot and also have the option to air other fixtures.
RTÉ and TV3 are both able to broadcast Saturday week's final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, but TV3 will have sole coverage of the final going forward. The commercial station has also won exclusive rights for all Europa League games, as well as the final round of Champions League qualifiers and European Super Cup.
TV3's hand has been strengthened by the backing of Virgin Media and its American owners, Liberty Global. Its Champions League gains are a further coup after it secured the rights for rugby's Six Nations and the free-to-air rights for the European Champions Cup.