Not long now before Netflix tackles sports

NUIG’s Carrie Dolan (right) holds on to the sliotar under pressure from Maynooth University’s Aoife Dunne in the Purcell Cup final at Mallow yesterday. Maynooth won 1-11 to 1-10. Picture: Inpho/Oisin Keniry

Because everyone I meet is more digitally adept than me (Tumblr? Twitch? Are you making these up?) I need to hang on to my occasional victories.

Like Netflix.

I can use the streaming service, which to me is sufficient reason to boast, though like everyone else I find myself scrolling for endless hours trying to locate something to watch among the hundreds of shows devoted to serial killers and Nazis. Occasionally I stumble across a gem or two but it’s rare enough.

The odd time a sports show pops up there which appeals, something like High Flying Bird, which I have not yet managed to watch, or a crime show like Mindhunter, which is not something to watch if you’re nervous about being on your own at home when the floorboards get creaky.

Some of the most popular shows are difficult for me to identify with, frankly.

Take Fyre: The Greatest Festival That Never Happened, an account of wildly over-optimistic projections for an expensive undertaking, one which eventually collapsed in a nightmare of recrimination and finger-pointing, and all because of faulty infrastructure and bizarre marketing ploys.

I mean, what in Ireland could approach something like that?

I raise Netflix here because I was listening to an American podcast recently and what struck me was the level of acceptance that Netflix is bound to intervene in sports broadcasting. One of the contributors gave traditional broadcast outlets maybe two years before Netflix decides to flex its considerable financial muscle for the professional leagues there.

(It’s ironic that this would be an almost reverse image of the Rupert Murdoch model, where vast sums were spent on securing rights for sports events as a way to get people to sign up for Sky packages which went beyond sport). The next step would be competition from other sources, probably from another vastly powerful company such as Amazon, which of course has its own content-providing broadcast service.

Even allowing for the current distractions facing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, his company will hardly let any move from Netflix to corral sports rights without a response.

You may acknowledge that this is fascinating but in the best tradition of three-year-old children everywhere, you may also ask: what does this mean for me? It depends on what sport you are interested in. If soccer and rugby are your bag then clearly such sports are the ideal target for a company like Netflix: professional, international, glamorous. For GAA fans is there something to worry about here? Perhaps, given its narrow appeal, Gaelic games may actually benefit by not popping up on the radar of vast conglomerates like the Evil Empire, by which I mean Netflix.

A sport like boxing, with a long history but now suffering a general decline in both interest and marketability, could see a Netflix takeover as a potential lifesaver.

The question, though, would be what exactly Netflix would like in return . ..

Feel free to remind me of this column if the Netflixation of other sports never occurs, but in return I reserve the right to keep repeating the column until it comes true. And in the best traditions of Netflix, I’ll try to accompany each iteration of the column with a version of ‘Gotta Get Up’ by Harry Nilsson. If you’re not sure what I mean by that, then there’s a streaming service you need to sign up for, and a series called Russian Doll you need to watch.

King Henry the usurper?

Thirty-six hours in the life of someone writing about hurling: Friday afternoon, to Nowlan Park for a Kilkenny-Glanbia press call, and a chat with Brian Cody.

One obvious question related to his former player, Henry Shefflin, who was managing Ballyhale Shamrocks in the All-Ireland club semi-final the following night, and Cody was glowing in his praise for Shefflin.

Saturday evening, to Semple Stadium, where Shefflin calmly fielded questions after his side had eased past Ballygunner to make it to another All-Ireland club final. The next Kilkenny hurling manager, whenever the tall man from James Stephens decides to step down? It might seem a little early to be speculating about the future of a man in his first year as a manager of an adult team, but Shefflin wasn’t afraid to make changes on Saturday evening when the game was there to be won, and names clearly didn’t matter to him. At half-time he took off one of his wing-forwards. The name? Brian Cody.

Blackrock have the right template

I spent last Friday evening at a school bingo night in Blackrock hurling club. (Checks: none. Full houses: none. Spot prizes won: none. But I’m not bitter). There was an announcement that the kids needed to stay in the hall as there was a presentation in the club bar so yours truly nosed his way out. The presentation was part of a scheme Blackrock are running to try to gather as much memorabilia and artifacts of various kinds together: last week it was an All-Ireland medal from the 19th century being handed over to the club.

This is the kind of community initiative yours truly can get behind, and not just in Gaelic games. Club histories of all kinds are a particular weakness for your columnist, who takes a particular delight in tracing the evolution of individuals, via photographs, from fresh-faced presence in an underage team to grizzled veteran on the club’s top team, and on to fleshy administrator in a suit and tie. (On a related note, thanks to Donal Collins, coincidentally also of Blackrock, for loaning me the history of sport in Farranferris by Tim Horgan). The Blackrock lads told me they’re getting plenty of photographs and other material: keep up the good work, and other clubs across all codes, please copy.

Portis recommendation will probably ring true

I don’t know about you but when I get a recommendation from someone that works out I tend to give that someone’s recommendations extra weight.

(Don’t criticise me for stating the obvious, either. I’ve seen TED Talks based on flimsier premises.) A year or two ago The Ringer website raved about thriller writer Ross Thomas, and I took a gamble on his novel Briar-patch. It lived up to the hype so I doubled down on another Thomas effort, but even if it had only been as thrilling as the phone book I’d have taken a chance on anything with the title The Fools In Town Are On Our Side.

(Clarification. TFITAOOS is far more interesting than the phone book.) Now The Ringer has advocated strongly on behalf of another obscure writer, Charles Portis, and one of his books, The Dog Of The South. Going on their past record I plan on purchasing this as soon as I can.

(Further clarification: if the name Charles Portis rings a very distant bell, he also wrote a western novel called True Grit).

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