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'No excuses' - RTE chief says sales of streaming package will prove if there is demand for LOI


Declan McBennett

Declan McBennett


Declan McBennett

RTE Head of Sport Declan McBennett has said there can be no complaints about League of Ireland coverage if there is a slow take-up for the new WATCHLOI streaming service.

Covid-19 restrictions have resulted in an experiment which will see all remaining Premier Division games in the abridged 2020 season broadcast live in some capacity.

The FAI have partnered with RTE to screen fixtures through the platform that hosts GAAGO with the prospect of closed doors or extremely limited attendances accelerating plans to test the interest levels.

Last week, independent.ie detailed how a domestic season pass (costing €55) and an overseas pass (€69) would go to the market with the price difference explained by Eir Sport retaining exclusive Irish rights for their games.

With 55+ league and cup games available for Irish buyers (island of Ireland) and 65+ matches for those based overseas, McBennett says that the response to a deal coming in at around €1 per game should tell a tale about the potential that exists for this to be a longer term success.

"We will know a lot in the first ten days, and an awful lot when we get to Halloween,” said McBennett ahead of the July 31 resumption.

“I'm not saying this is a silver bullet by any stretch of the imagination but it's an experiment that is worth doing, a project that is worth undertaking. The FAI see merit in it. GAAGO saw merit in it and you put the two of them together and we see what happens

“There's no excuses here. If this takes off, great for everybody. If it doesn't and the numbers are not significant then there's lessons there for everybody as well. The numbers of the subscriptions domestically and internationally will prove the merit of it.

"Nobody in soccer can say they're not getting coverage here, this is pretty much every game now. The price point cannot be an issue because it's more than competitive.”

McBennett confirmed that RTE will still show their agreed quota of live games on regular TV, but suggested that other codes will be watching the LOI plan with interest, as this is a service that is open to Irish viewers whereas GAAGO is only available outside the jurisdiction.

County boards and various other organisations have trialled showing their matches but RTE say they will be applying another level of expertise by sending commentators and cameras to each fixture.

"That's the fundamental gamechanger in this. The domestic factor this year is that people can't get to the games," he said.

"You see the streaming option being explored by several codes and several sports but this is the biggest and most high profile one going because it involves the league, and it's got a structure where the fixtures are very much set out (for streaming purposes).

"This is not a low scale operation. There are things that RTE and broadcaster bring to a dimension, a higher standard of production values, better commentary.

"Most games will have additional cameras on them. We've got to see how that goes but, again, there's a cycle here, the more that people buy into it, the greater the production will be in a sense. That's what gives us the excitement around it. There's an opportunity here but there won't be any excuses

"It's a new experiment and allows all codes to look at it and learn from it. We will sit back in October and see the value of what has just transpired, the merits of it, the benefit.

"Targets (sales) have never been mentioned, I can genuinely say that. Everybody will come back to this at the end and see where it goes and what the possibilities are. There are no specific targets. The target is to get every game out to the fans and then review it and see what was the domestic uptake, the international uptake, and what the future prospects are."

McBennett added that RTE will explore showing games involving League of Ireland sides in Europe as part of their live TV quota.

"We will fulfil the full terms of our commitment so we have to see how the clubs go in Europe and stuff," he said.

"We will still have our 18 games across the board so how they are broken up, league games, cup games, the women's cup final, clubs in Europe - it will depend on the rights for those and exploring buying the rights for those. We'll still have our full complement of linear (live TV) games."

Online Editors