Thursday 23 November 2017

Sky in talks for GAA TV deal

Supporters may have to pay up to watch games in championship

Bernard Brogan in action foR dUBLIN
Bernard Brogan in action foR dUBLIN
A general view of a tv camera platform in Croke Park

Martin Breheny and Donnchadh Boyle

GAA fans could be hit with TV subscription charges to watch some of this year's All-Ireland championship games.

Sky Sports are believed to be at an advanced state of negotiations with Croke Park to enter the GAA market as part of an overall deal featuring a range of broadcasters.

RTE will continue as the main rights holder, but several other stations, including Sky, are also interested in getting a slice of the market.

It's understood that negotiations have taken place under which the Sky package would feature up to 10 games, including two All-Ireland quarter-finals. It's unclear whether Sky's bid is in conjunction with an other broadcaster.

Awarding Sky exclusive rights to a particular package would spark anger among the GAA public as it would leave them facing subscription charges.

There's already disquiet among GAA fans over the deal with Setanta – a subscription channel for many people – to show Saturday night Allianz League games.

There would be much more opposition to granting TV rights for championship games to subscription channels. However, the GAA are keen to exploit their prime product to the maximum – hence the interest in Sky who have a proven record in promoting the sports they cover.

The GAA are keen to broaden the international dimension of their coverage, both as a service to Irish people abroad and to increase revenue. The last TV deal is understood to be worth around €10m per annum to the GAA, but market analysts believe that figure could be increased significantly if a wider overseas audience was reached.

RTE, TV3 and BBC were the main rights holders under the last agreement. Sky's arrival – even on a limited basis – would be a major plus for the GAA in financial and exposure terms, but would not go down well with supporters who faced a subscription fee.

GAA president Liam O' Neill yesterday declined to comment on Sky's possible involvement in the new television deal.

"There's a process going on at the moment and to speak about it would be unfair to those involved. It's tied up in a legal process.

"The process is nearing completion and we look forward to an announcement as soon as we possibly can," he said.

Irish Independent

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