What's the cheapest way to watch football on TV?
The more than 700,000 Irish people who have signed up to Sky's TV service will miss out on the chance to see one in four live Premier League matches next year - because of the €7bn football rights deal struck last week.
Under the deal, British broadcasters Sky and BT Sports are paying a combined €7bn to show live Premier League games for three years from 2016. Sky has got the majority of the games, as it has snapped up the exclusive rights to show 126 live matches a season, while BT has won the rights for 42 matches a season.
The deal means that Irish footie fans who have signed up to a Sky Sports TV package will be able to watch most Premier League games live from 2016. However, they will miss out on the 42 being broadcast by BT Sports each season - unless they sign up to the Setanta Sports TV package (which includes Setanta and BT Sport channels).
Fans who have only signed up to the Setanta Sports TV pack have lost out even more than Sky Sports customers. Under last week's deal, most live Premier League games will be shown on Sky from 2016 - with only one in four to be shown on Setanta channels.
TV customers often lose out when broadcasters go head-to-head in bidding wars for the television rights to popular football games.
Back in November 2013, BT bought up the live broadcast rights for the UEFA Champions League and Europa League games for three years from September 2015. The rights had previously been shared by Sky and ITV. As a result, Sky will not have any live Champions League or Europa League games from this September. So to see those games live from then, you must have a Setanta Sports TV pack.
As bidding wars between broadcasters intensify, it's important to be careful before signing up to a sports TV package - choose the wrong one and you could you miss out on the game (or games) of the year.
"Picking out the right sports package deals from providers can be confusing. It's easy to pay over the odds for your subscription and miss out on important games," said Eoin Clarke, head of the price comparison website uSwitch.ie.
"Eircom is the latest provider to offer sport channels to their TV customers. However, the downside for many footie fans is that Eircom's Sky Sports package only offers two channels - Sky Sports 1 and 2. Fans of the Spanish Primera would be disappointed as they need access to Sky Sports 5 to view their favourite teams."
You must be an eVision customer to get TV from Eircom. To do so however, you must have signed up to Eircom's eFibre broadband service - so you are getting your TV over the internet. Eircom is still rolling out its eFibre around the country so you may not yet have it in your area. As well as Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2, you can get the Setanta Sports and BT Sports channels with Eircom if you are an eVision customer.
You will get more Sky Sports channels with Sky and UPC than you will with Eircom - however, even this is no guarantee that you will see the match you want.
For example, Manchester United fans who signed up to Sky's Sky Sports package would have missed out on the FA Cup game against Cambridge on February 3, as it was broadcast by BT.
"The downside for Sky Sports customers [when a live game is being exclusively broadcast by BT] is they need to sign up to an extra package to view such games," said Mr Clarke. "The extra cost can be as high as €264 per year."
The easiest way to see all the matches you are interested in is to sign up to a bundle (or two) with one company. Sky and UPC are the main players when it comes to sports TV in Ireland. Eircom also provides sports TV though its offering is more limited and may not be available to you (if you cannot get eFibre).
Be sure any bundle you sign up for includes all the sports packages you want - and that those packages have all the channels you want. Before you choose your channels, find out what matches will (and won't) be broadcast on those channels.
What do the various TV sports packages include?
The Setanta Sports pack includes the Setanta Ireland, Setanta 1, BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN channels.
Highlights of this year include the friendly between Ireland and England this June, and the FA Cup Final and semi-finals. The Premier League Swansea v Man Utd, and Man Utd v Sunderland games will be shown on Setanta later this month.
Footie fans who have signed up for Setanta Sports get 71 exclusively live Premier League games (until the new 2016 deal kicks in), over 40 live FA Cup matches each season, all of Ireland's home international football friendlies and eight live games from the Setanta Sports Cup. For three years from this September, Setanta customers get every live Champions League and Europa League match.
The number of channels you get with your Sky Sports package will depend on who you sign up to it with. You get seven Sky Sports channels (Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports News HQ) with Sky; five with UPC (Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) and two with Eircom (Sky Sports 1 and 2). You could miss out on some matches shown on Sky Sports if you only have Sky Sports 1 and 2.
Highlights of the year include the climaxes of the Premier League, La Liga and Football League; and the finals of the Capital One Cup, SPL Scottish Cup and Copa del Rey. The Premier League games to be shown on Sky Sports over the next month include the Southampton v Liverpool, Liverpool v Man City, Chelsea v Southampton, and Man Utd v Spurs matches.
Ireland's Euro 2016 qualifiers against Poland in late March and against Scotland in mid-June will be broadcast on Sky Sports 5 as will Spain's La Liga.
From September, you won't see live Champions League or Europa League games on Sky for three years.
It can cost anything from €199 a year to €432 a year for a sports TV package, depending on provider and package, says uSwitch.ie.
Sky normally charges €36 a month (€432 a year) for all seven Sky Sports channels. It is offering its customers an upgrade to Sky Sports and Movies for €28 per month for eight months. However, check what your subscription will be once those eight months expire - and if you can opt out of the offer at that stage for free.
Eircom charges eVision customers €30 a month for Sky Sports 1 and 2. However, under a current offer, you can get the first three months for half-price, which brings the total cost for the year to €315. Similarly, Eircom normally charges €18 a month for the Setanta Sports package, but as you can get the first three months for half-price, the total cost of that package comes to €189 a year.
"When it comes to household bills, loyalty never pays," said Mr Clarke. "Shopping around slashes bills and could open the door to additional sport TV content. Bill payers should be as fickle as they can. Staying with your provider after your contract ends could cost you hundreds of euro extra a year."
TV viewers face fees of €200 or more for cancelling contracts
No matter how eager you are to watch a live Champions League or Premier League game from the comfort of your sofa, don't rush into a TV package. You are normally locked into a contract for at least a year - break it, and you could be hit with a charge of a few hundred euro.
A standard TV contract with Sky is for a year; but with UPC and Eircom, a standard contract is for a year-and-a-half.
Sky charges an early termination fee if you end your contract with the broadcaster before it expires. As this fee is a monthly charge for each of the months you have not yet used in your contact, it may not be worth your while cancelling at all. Cancel a standard TV contract with Sky after a month of signing up for example and the termination charge could be about €215.
"The early termination charge for TV customers shall not be any more than the charges the customer would have paid if he had subscribed to our least expensive available service for the remainder of the minimum term - less any costs Sky saves," said a spokesman for Sky. "The amount charged depends on how much of the customer's minimum term is left to run, the period the customer has already been billed for, and the products that he subscribes to. For a standard TV customer, this equates to a charge of €19.53 for each unexpired month of the minimum term."
UPC customers face a cancellation charge of up to €200 should they end their contract before it expires, while Eircom charges its eVision customers €150.
Remember, when you buy something from home, you normally have a cooling-off period of 14 days (after signing up to a service), where you can cancel a contract without giving a reason and without incurring charges or penalties.
Before signing up to a TV contract, check if you will be charged for installation and equipment (such as control boxes and satellite dishes). To entice you to sign up, most providers, including Sky, UPC and Eircom, offer free installation and equipment.
Sunday Indo Business