Discussions have already started between the association and all interested parties regarding next year’s media rights deal and it is expected that Sky could come under pressure from other outlets for viewing rights.
This week’s announcement that Setanta Sports has been taken over by eir Sport and that they have secured the rights to show the 2019 Rugby World Cup has cranked up pressure in the industry, while TV3, RTÉ, and TG4 are also expected to show an interest in the GAA’s TV rights.
The last media rights contract covered the 2014, ’15, and ’16 seasons, so the GAA will be keen to nail down the next deal well before the start of next year’s national league in February. The GAA president confirmed that official talks are already ongoing.
“Everybody is back at the table that has an interest,” said Ó Fearghaíl. “Discussions are ongoing and I hope that will be concluded in the next few months.
“We like to conclude things well in advance. I’m expecting that certainly before the end of the calendar year, and as the Americans call it ‘The Fall of the year’, I think we will be able to have another media rights deal done by then,” added Ó Fearghaíl, speaking after turning the sod for the redevelopment of the Hyde Park pitch in Roscommon.
The decision to sell some of the TV rights to Sky Sports for three seasons has come in for criticism from some grassroots GAA members and supporters who feel Gaelic games should only be shown on free- to-air televisions channels.
However, it is highly unlikely that any sporting organisation will turn down the chance of lucrative TV deals, which bring large revenue into the association, believed to be in the region of €11m for the current deal.
The so-called ‘Sky deal’ looks like being something supporters need to get used to, and Ó Fearghaíl thinks the GAA are fortunate to have such interest in their games.
“Well there never was a ‘Sky deal’: That’s a misnomer. There was a media rights deal and it involved Radio na Gaeltachta and it involved RTÉ and Newstalk, and Sky were part of that as well. There are many holders to the media rights,” added Ó Fearghaíl.
“And we are delighted, there are lots more showing interest in our game all of the time. We are not in the unfortunate position that I know some sporting bodies are in where there is no media at all showing an interest.
“We have the opposite challenge: We have a lot more showing an interest in our games than we can accommodate.
“That’s just part of the situation of our games at the moment and we have to accommodate everybody.
“We are discussing with everybody and we will conclude another media rights deal in the best interest of our members and the wider viewership.”