Broadcasting revenue accounts for 60% of the income generated by the World Cups, which is in turn redistributed globally to grow the game, and the International Rugby Board (IRB) confirmed TV3 made the highest offer of all Irish broadcasters.
However, TV3 chief executive David McRedmond claimed the two contract bids proceeded independent of one another.
“The bid for the Rugby World Cup was made before we knew the outcome of the GAA rights,” he explained. “You don’t really compare them. GAA is a three-year package. It’s a much smaller package with 12 or 14 games and this is something of a completely different magnitude but just in 2015, not over three years.
“But this was our target. This was the absolute standout sports event for Ireland in 2015.
“It is by a distance the most relevant and important event we could possibly have in 2015 so, to that extent, it’s not a comparison — and that’s not saying GAA isn’t hugely important to us, but it is over three years.”
Setanta were the primary rights holders in Ireland for the 2007 and 2011 tournaments but sub-licensed games to TV3 for the first of those events in France and to RTÉ for the latter in New Zealand, and TV3 may yet follow suit for 2015.
Niall Cogley is TV3 group director of broadcasting and a former head of sport with RTÉ and also Setanta. Head of sports with Setanta when the ‘07 and ‘11 rights were won, he claimed it was too early to say whether or not a similar blueprint would be provided this time.
“We wouldn’t rule it out,” he said, “but we would prefer to have them all on TV3 and 3e, which are both free-to-air channels, but lets see what interest there is from the other broadcasters on the island.”
As it stands, TV3 will broadcast around 20 matches with the remainder on 3e while they will also offer TV, digital and mobile highlights.
The channel is also sticking to its insistence that it will launch its high definition (HD) service in the first half of 2015.
Robert Brophy, chief financial officer of the IRB, added HD would be preferable but wasn’t a stipulation in the contract signed between the sports bodies and the station whose coverage of the 2007 event was heavily criticised at the time.
Brophy admitted as much when acknowledging that TV3’s presentation “needs to improve” from its offering of seven years ago while insisting it was well-positioned — despite its lack of resources and rugby output compared to RTÉ — to do the job.
“They clearly demonstrated a desire to get these rights. That won out in the end. We are on record as saying they put up the highest price, but we are genuinely on record around the world as not always taking the highest bid.”