Sunday 18 August 2019

TV3 chief defends lengthy ad breaks in lively radio exchange as RTÉ bemoans Six Nations loss

Group Head of RTÉ Sport Ryle Nugent says the national broadcaster put "heart and soul" into rugby coverage

George Hook, Tom McGurk & Brent Pope
George Hook, Tom McGurk & Brent Pope
TV3 along with The Six Nations Council announced that it has secured the rights to the Six Nations Championship for a period of 4 years from 2018 until 2021 Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
TV3 along with The Six Nations Council announced that it has secured the rights to the Six Nations Championship for a period of 4 years from 2018 until 2021 Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE Newsdesk Newsdesk

TV3 chief executive David McRedmond has strenuously defended the lengthy ad breaks during its World Cup coverage as the station was today awarded the rights to the Six Nations from 2018 onwards.

TV3 will broadcast every game live and free-to-air for viewers in the Republic of Ireland from 2018 onwards and coverage will also include previews, magazine programmes and highlight shows as well as delayed match replays of all matches to complement live coverage.

It follows on from the station taking the Rugby World Cup off the national broadcaster, with RTÉ 's Group Head of Sport Ryle Nugent describing the decision as "extremely disappointing" but insisted they went to the "limits of their abilities" in the bidding process.

"There's no getting away from it, it's an extremely disappointing decision and bad news for RTÉ. We put our heart and soul into the coverage as we do with all our sports, and without wishing to sound arrogant about it, the public have always recognised that," he told RTÉ Radio's Drivetime programme.

Nugent was adamant that the "best possible bid" within their means was put forward and added that RTÉ is simply another player in a highly competitive market.

"Any suggestion that RTÉ is the biggest fish in the pond is frankly not true. We are at a situation where there are broadcasters, whether they are Irish broadcasters or broadcasters with an interest in the Irish market from the UK, such as Sky or BT with extremely deep pockets.

"It is an incredibly competitive market and RTÉ doesn't have the God-given right to win every sports right that comes into the market."

TV3's chief McRedmond insisted the announcement is positive announcement for Irish viewers and defended the advertising which became a major talking point during the World Cup coverage.

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TV3 allows 12 minutes of advertisements every hour during live coverage as opposed to RTE's six minutes.

"We have to run more ads than RTÉ certainly because we don't get the licence fee, McRedmond told RTÉ Radio One listeners. "There is a very clear difference."

"We deliver these matches free-to-air so viewers do not have to pay to see it. I wouldn't make this about an issue between RTÉ and TV3, this is good for Irish broadcasting, it's good for viewers.

Nugent was asked whether the deal made financial sense for TV3.

"My gut, my sense, is that the answer to that question is no, but I can't be definitive because I don't have their criteria," he said.

"It didn't make sense for RTE to invest any further money on behalf of the Irish public. We went to the very limit of our abilities," while also adding that the demise of RTÉ had been "greatly exaggerated".

"Next year alone we have the European Championships, the Olympic Games, we have the GAA Championships, the European Athletics Championships."

When pressed on viewer irritation over the ad breaks during live coverage, McRedmond remained defiant and added that TV3 coverage was far more comprehensive than RTÉ's during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand

The amount of panel time was given was absolutely sufficient and comparable to broadcasters anywhere else, particularly those that don't get stat subsidies.

"TV3 did something different to what RTE does," he said.

"It's important that viewers get fantastic coverage. The big difference, compared to the Rugby World Cup on RTÉ four years earlier, is RTÉ only showed 13 live matches. TV3 showed 48 matches live.

"In the previous World Cup, I doubt you would have seen that fantastic South Africa/Japan match which set the whole Rugby World Cup live."

Newstalk presenter and former RTÉ rugby pundit George Hook says he is "upset" for his former colleagues but believes it is a sign of the times in relation to broadcasting rights in sport.

"If RTE could have put up more money they would have got it," he told listeners of RTÉ Radio's The Ray D'Arcy Show. "Sporting bodies are only interested in money. The highest bidder wins. The highest bidder in this case won.

"What you are going to see in sport in the future is more and more and advertising. There's no point in complaining.

"It's really sad. I'm really upset for my former colleagues in the sports department. RTÉ is a station with a long tradition of broadcasting sport and it must be a very sad place today and I feel for them."

Six Nations Rugby has said it is "delighted" with the new partnership.

"We are delighted to be working with TV3 on developing the interest in the Championship and to ultimately grow this wonderful competition in Ireland," John Feehan, CEO of Six Nations Rugby said. "TV3’s coverage of Rugby World Cup was very successful and we believe that they will inject new and exciting ideas in the broadcasting of the Six Nations Championship.”

"I wish to acknowledge the excellent work and support of RTE in the coverage of the RBS 6 Nations Championship over the years, and indeed we look forward to working with them for the remaining two years of the existing contract."

Over the last two years viewership in Ireland has averaged over 400,000 per match.

Earlier this year it was confirmed that Six Nations rugby will remain on terrestrial television in the UK after the BBC and ITV teamed up to share the rights in a deal believed to be worth around £50m a year.

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