Thursday 18 October 2018

TV3's audience reach left it out of GAA picture

Broadcaster also lost deal to Sky Sports over inability to show games in high definition

GAME ON: In attendance at the launch of the GAA’s deal with Sky Sports were Ard Stiurthoir of the GAA Paraic Duffy, left, and JD Buckley, managing director, Sky Ireland at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
GAME ON: In attendance at the launch of the GAA’s deal with Sky Sports were Ard Stiurthoir of the GAA Paraic Duffy, left, and JD Buckley, managing director, Sky Ireland at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
At the launch are Ard Stiúrthóir of the GAA Páraic Duffy, left, and JD Buckley, Managing Director, Sky Ireland. Croke Park, Dublin. Picture: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE


TV3 lost out to Sky Sports on GAA rights because it can't broadcast to all 32 counties and its audience reach is 200,000 viewers less than RTE for a provincial football or hurling final.

And TV3's inability to broadcast in High Definition – now considered essential by GAA chiefs for hurling coverage – was another black mark against it.

TV3 also made a tactical error in the bidding process. It threw all its eggs in one basket trying to secure a major slice of championship games, one of 14 different broadcast tenders released by the GAA

When that big bid failed TV3 had no "Plan B" and Sky Sports managed to secure exclusive rights to 14 senior provincial and All-Ireland games plus two All-Ireland football quarter-finals.

And in a bid to quell fears over a new "pay per view" era, the GAA is working out details with Sky to deliver a discounted package to GAA clubs around the country so fans will have access to exclusive Sky Sports championship games.

"Sky are putting together a competitive package that clubs can subscribe to," GAA Commercial Director Peter McKenna revealed.

And relations between the GAA and RTE remain tense following last week's coverage of the Sky Sports deal by the national broadcaster.

GAA president Liam O'Neill said: "We were shocked by the treatment we got from RTE. Every single one of the interviews was aggressive.

"RTE are our partners. They have got 31 of our games. They have radio, we give them access beyond what would be given to broadcasters in other sports and in other countries. We didn't expect them to be in our favour – we weren't looking for that. We were looking for balance and I don't think we got balance."

The GAA believes it has a strong case for lodging a complaint over the coverage to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland but has decided against further action.

Mr McKenna said that bringing a complaint to the BAI would "elevate the row to another level" and the GAA had decided not to take that course.

But Mr McKenna was withering in his condemnation of the "hysterical" coverage by RTE news and current affairs over the arrival of Sky Sports on to the GAA playing field.

"The irony is not lost on the GAA that RTE's flagship show, the Late Late, is now sponsored by Sky Broadband," he added.

Mr McKenna admitted that TV3, which last week announced a voluntary redundancy package available to all staff, was the big loser.

"The fact that we couldn't find anything for them was personally disappointing. They were very good partners, very professional and they made a major contribution," he said.

But he told the Sunday Independent that the decision to give rights to Sky Sports was not about money.

"We looked at the ability to transmit in High Definition, which is an important part of it. HD has become a more regular component of broadcasting and has been a major step forward especially in relation to hurling. TV3 don't have that capability," he said.

The second issue was the ability to broadcast to all 32 counties.

"Again TV 3 don't have that ability so again that was an important component. In this regard, in terms of provincial finals, the difference between RTE's audience reach compared with TV3 was in the order of 200,000 people. That was very substantial," he added.

"When we looked at Sky, we had to examine what our total reach was going to be. It's very important for sponsors. Sky also brought particular access to the British market, which is currently highly unregulated. There is an awful lot of "slingboxing", a lot of leakage from the island of Ireland into the UK market."

Slingbox is a TV streaming media device made by Sling Media that encodes video into the VC-1 format for transmission over the internet.

"It was very hard to find out who was getting the signal and who was not getting the signal," Mr McKenna said.

The real winners in the deal are RTE – despite the station's trenchant criticism of the Sky Sports element of the deal last week.

"GAA Go is a joint venture between us and RTE. We will be carrying all the matches in the US. Anyone who logs on will be able to get all of the championship games for 2014 and from 2015 we will have everything on it, leagues, under-21s, club fixtures. The same service will be delivered to Europe, Africa and Asia. In Australia we will be with their biggest broadcaster Seven via their sports channel Seven Mate, which has 95 per cent coverage in Australia."

"The real wealth of this is bringing the games to such a wide audience. It gives us a real opportunity to break into these really big markets. There are thousands of people who have emigrated even in recent years. There are more than 500 GAA clubs worldwide.

"They deserve to see the games played at the highest possible standard and in the highest possible broadcast quality. Hurling is so fast, it needs the best possible High Definition transmission," Mr McKenna added.

Sunday Independent

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