Sport on TV - the ball's in your court
Many providers offer good deals but navigating the minefield can be tricky, says Sinead Ryan
Sports season is upon us (is it ever not?), and fans have plenty to look forward to, with something for everyone from football to slalom skiing.
But making sure you have the right television channels to watch your favourite sports can be confusing, especially with TV rights doing all the talking in the big-league games. This week, I'm looking at which sports subscription packages offer what, and whether it's worth switching provider to make sure you don't miss a match.
While you can pay as little as €25 a month for cable television, once you start adding specialist extras, the costs really pile up, and sports packages are the most expensive. Eoin Clarke of Switcher.ie believes all providers have something to offer and navigating the minefield can be tricky.
"If you're a footie fan and want to stay up to date with the Premier League, the chances are you'll want to fork out for Sky Sports, as this will give you access to more games than other packages," he says.
"At the moment, existing eir, Sky, Virgin Media and Vodafone customers have the ability to add on Sky Sports to their current TV package.
"With Sky itself, this will cost you €25 per month for the first six months, going up to €40 per month thereafter. This gets you eight dedicated Sky Sports channels. Customers also get access to the Sky Sports App, for mobile alerts, and Sky Go which allows live viewing on devices."
For rugby fans, the good news is the Six Nations will be broadcast live on TV3, so if you only have a traditional TV package, you don't need to splash out on a sports add-on to watch these games. The same is true for the Winter Olympics, which kicks off on February 9 - RTE will have a nightly highlights programme, while the BBC will also have extensive coverage. If you have Eurosport, which comes as standard with some TV packages, there'll be full coverage there too.
Meanwhile, eir Sport - previously known as Setanta Sports - is another great option and the good news is that the eir Sport pack comes free with all eir broadband packages.
Of course, all the providers offer 'triple' or 'quad' play options, which mean your subscription generally includes broadband and free landline and mobile calls. But do ask if there is a separate charge - you may find it's cheaper to have a TV subscription with one provider and broadband with another, especially if you really need high speeds and graphics content online.
It's worth finding out what you already have for free too as Mark Whelan of Bonkers.ie points out: "eir Sport is free to all eir broadband customers automatically, but is not available at all to Virgin TV customers. Adding on a sports package to an existing bundle may be a big price to pay."
With Sky, for example, the eir Sport add-on can cost up to €330 a year and Sky Sports can cost another €480 - together that's €810 a year on sport alone!
While real fans won't care about the cost, it's worth noting that many sports package customers only watch a fraction of the sport they're paying for and should consider the cost of the package over the lifetime of a contract before signing up.
Bonkers.ie recommends NOW TV as an option for people who just want to watch the biggest events in their favourite sport - the service allows customers to pay just €10 for a day or €15 for a week of access. If you're just interested in big end-of-season Premier League games or a major golf tournament without having to pay for a full year of service, this might be the one for you.
The panel shows some current offers out there which you can consider before deciding the one for you. Remember, this is one of those areas where price alone isn't the decider - it's about which ball is your favourite!
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The best TV sports subscription packages
All providers have in-built or add-on sports packages if you check your favourite sports are included. Here are some current deals available, according to Bonkers.ie:
eirSport is free to eir broadband customers. Add on Sky Sports for €20 p.m. for six months, €40 p.m. thereafter.
Add on eirSport: €27.50 p.m. or €245 p.a. Get Sky TV + Sky Sports for €55.60 p.m. for first six months, €69.50 afterwards (it's €25 p.m. for six months, €40 p.m. thereafter for existing customers).
Add on Sky Sports for €32 p.m. for 12 months, €40 p.m. thereafter.
eir Sport is free for six months to new customers signing up to any bundle, €20 a month thereafter. Add on Sky Sports for €20 p.m. for six months, €40 a month thereafter.
Contract-free access to Sky Sports - €10 for daily pass, €15 for weekly pass, €50 for monthly pass.