The Guinness PRO12 is among the live TV rights being eyed up by eir Sport in the wake of the new brand’s launch and news that the company has won the race to screen all 48 matches at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in the Republic of Ireland.
The new eir Sport entity follows the acquisition of Setanta Sports Channel Ltd by eir, the largest telecommunications company in the country, which will now offer the same six channels, including four from BT Sport, under the new livery.
So far so similar, but what is game-changing is the move to provide the eir Sport Pack free to all existing and new eir broadband customers.
It is the same business model as used by BT in the UK and equates to a saving of roughly €300 per year per customer.
eir already has 370,000 broadband customers in the Republic of Ireland who, as of yesterday, are entitled to content that includes Barclays Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League, Europa League, European Rugby Champions Cup, UFC, Formula One and more.
Sky and TG4 are the current PRO12 broadcasters in this country in a deal that ends in 2018 but Brian Quinn, operations director for eir Sport, confirmed the company would be interested in capturing the rights which Setanta held for a six-year period.
“Today is a great step in that regard,” he said.
“I would love for us to be showing PRO12 again. We are competitive at every rights auction that comes up if it suits our geographical territory in the Republic of Ireland.”
Rugby has assumed an even greater importance in their schedule with announcement deals have already been agreed to show the 2019 World Cup, the 2017 Women’s World Cup (being hosted in Ireland), the annual U20 World Championship and the 2018 Sevens World Cup.
Legislation dictates some designated games at a Rugby World Cup, including those with Ireland, the semi-finals and final, must be available free-to-air which is likely to bring RTÉ, TV3, TG4 and UTV Ireland back into the picture for the Japan tournament.
The other alternative is eir could opt to retain all exclusive rights by screening the 13 games set aside for free-to-air viewing on a terrestrial platform of their own – but not an app.
Whatever the decision, it is one that will have to be approved by World Rugby.
“We have just won the rights so it is not a process we have given much thought to at this stage,” said Quinn.
“In a few month’s time we will start to think about the logistics.”
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