A little over three weeks out from the start of the provincial championships and there hasn’t been a dicky bird about the live TV schedules.
As they have done in recent years, the GAA seem content to leave it up to RTÉ and Sky to make their own announcements in the coming weeks. But as both competitions take on new shapes and TV companies adapt accordingly, it would have been advisable to release details earlier than in previous years.
We do know that Mayo v Galway on May 13 will be broadcast live on RTÉ and we learned last week that they are also set to televise the Tipperary-Cork Munster SHC round two game in Semple Stadium at 2pm on May 27.
We can assume the Galway-Kilkenny Leinster SHC round three game that same day, which has a 4pm throw-in time on May 27, will also be shown live by RTÉ.
However, there will be clashes. The Donegal-Cavan Ulster preliminary round game takes place at the same time as Mayo-Galway on May 13, while the Clare-Waterford round two game in Ennis throws in 90 minutes after the Tipp-Cork game and 30 minutes before Galway v Kilkenny. The Donegal-Cavan affair may be televised by BBC but it’s unlikely the same facility will be available for what happens in Cusack Park.
In the interest of fairness, the final round of games in the Munster and Leinster hurling championships will take place at the same time meaning one game might have to be chosen over the other for televising. Galway-Dublin and Kilkenny-Wexford finish out the Leinster competition on June 9 with 7pm starts. The penultimate and ultimate rounds of the Munster SHC have 2pm throw-ins, Limerick-Waterford and Tipperary-Clare on June 10 and Clare-Limerick and Waterford-Cork on June 17. Similar clashes, for the sake of equity, are also likely to occur in the final stages of the All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals rounds (Super 8s).
Both GAA commercial director Peter McKenna and new director general Tom Ryan have stated there will be little or no change to the number of games shown by RTÉ and Sky Sports — RTÉ currently have 25 exclusive matches and Sky 14, both enjoying simulcast rights to both codes’ All-Ireland football and hurling semi-finals and finals. In total, 45 matches will be screened live.
Initially, it had been suggested both broadcasters would enjoy pro-rata increases to their live coverage to reflect the increase in the number of games due to the changes to each Championship. However, the GAA look set to make more of their GAAGo relationship with RTÉ by streaming games which are not televised live. In January, McKenna revealed as much: “We’ll probably look at running some of them on GAAGo so we’ll be able to stream games for the first time, on our own service. That’ll be a new development we’re working on. I think the new Championship format is going to be very, very positive.
“RTÉ are our joint partners there (with GAAGo), and we want to make sure people get to see the game. It’s our view that this is the best way of doing it (game streaming).”
It’s an exciting venture, which will undoubtedly need a bedding-in period, but it makes a lot of sense for the GAA to take further steps towards developing their own channel. The changing market is something McKenna is acutely aware of.
What Sky Sports are going to do with their 14 exclusive Championship matches is a source of much speculation. It’s expected they will have the rights to one Munster SHC match as they did last year and the Cork v Limerick game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday, June 2 (7pm throw-in) appears to be the one they have earmarked.
According to a piece written by Irish Examiner columnist Paul Rouse in February, Sky are going to jettison much of their coverage of the qualifiers for the Super 8s. Like RTÉ, they have shown two quarter-finals but as there are now 12 of these matches they will be interested in televising more of these games closer to the business end of the Championship rather than the backdoor matches.
That makes perfect sense — any right-minded TV company would want to broadcast the more attractive fixtures —but if the sold-out signs go up outside Healy, McHale or St Tiernach’s Park and the only means of watching what goes on inside is Sky Sports the GAA can expect a greater backlash than ever before.
The possibility of over a third of the last 15 games of the All-Ireland SFC being exclusively shown on a pay-per-view channel would run contrary to many things the GAA espouses, namely promotion, as much as there is a counter-argument that Sky’s money pays for coaches. On the contrary, what the GAA are doing for themselves in the form of GAAGo and taking more ownership of their product should be applauded.
This summer paints a new picture of the Championships and a new frame is required. The sooner people learn about it, the better.
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