Sky Sports, Premier Sports & BBC NI secure three-year GAA deal

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Sky Sports, Premier Sports and BBC Northern Ireland have all secured three-year deals to show live All-Ireland Gaelic football and hurling Championships matches staged in Ireland.

For the first time in its 23-year history, Sky Sports will showcase the excitement, passion and drama of Ireland’s two most popular sports with weekly live coverage, as well as the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals from each code.

The new GAA TV deals in the UK with Sky, Premier Sports and the BBC, alongside Irish broadcasters RTE and TG4, come into effect in May 2014 with the start of the Ulster Championship.

Comprising mainly of Gaelic football and hurling, Gaelic games are the most popular sports in Ireland in terms of supporter attendances at senior games and regularly attract high TV viewing figures.

Sky’s agreement in total comprises 20 live matches, including the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals exclusively live in the UK, 14 matches exclusively live in Ireland, and the All-Ireland semi-finals and final also live.

Live coverage begins on Sky Sports at Nowlan Park on June 7 for the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final between Kilkenny and Offaly.

Sky’s 14 exclusive matches will consist of eight Saturday evening All-Ireland qualifiers, two All-Ireland Football quarter-finals, plus four provincial championship games, with these 20 live games all available to its subscribers in Ireland and the UK.

Other confirmed fixtures to be broadcast on Sky include Dublin v Wexford in the Leinster SHC, Sligo v Galway/London in the Connacht SFC, and Armagh/Cavan v Down/Tyrone/Monaghan in the Ulster SFC.

Premier Sports, which has covered GAA since 2010 in the UK, will continue to show live matches for further three years after securing six rights packages that features 75% of the televised games on offer.

The deal will see the channel screen exclusive coverage of 26 games each season for the next 3 years from the GAA Championships.

This includes Sunday Provincial games including the finals from all 4 regions, 1st/2nd choice of qualifiers from rounds 1 and 2 and 4 Quarter Finals, exclusive coverage of over 30 Allianz League games, including live TG4 games in English, plus a minimum of 6 Club Championship games covering the semi-finals and finals.

On free-to-air television, BBC Northern Ireland has secured live television and radio coverage of the GAA Championship, also covering a three-year period.

The BBC will broadcast live coverage of all Ulster matches that are being televised by RTE, including the Ulster Football Final.

A new deal to bring listeners live coverage of Gaelic Games on BBC Radio Ulster throughout the year has also been agreed.

In Ireland, RTE will screen 31 live games which will include the All-Ireland senior finals and semi-finals in both codes, the All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals, and two of the four All-Ireland football quarter-finals.

RTE has also secured the rights to all six Provincial championship finals, while the remainder of the 31 games to be shown live on the channel will be a mixture of provincial championship and qualifier games.

Gaelic broadcaster TG4 will also continue to broadcast Football and Hurling League matches and other underage matches, and Setanta Sports will continue to broadcast Saturday evening Allianz Leagues games, though TV3’s involvement with GAA will come to an end after six years after it failed to secure any matches.

The decision to award pay-TV broadcaster Sky Sports the rights to selected matches for the first time has been greeted with a mixed reaction among the general public in Ireland.

The move represents a paradigm shift for the GAA and is likely to cause some unhappiness among the viewing public in Ireland, who will have to pay to watch matches for the first time this summer.

GAA president Liam O’Neill said the decisions made in the new TV rights deals are part of the organisation’s strategy to expand the sport beyond its traditional heartlands in Ireland.

“For the first time ever, millions in Britain will also have access to our championship games which will be a huge boost,” he told the Irish Independent.

“When people see the package in its entirety, they will see we are trying to make the games a global sport ,” he added.

Commenting on Sky Sports’ entry into the GAA TV rights market, managing director Barney Francis said: “We’re delighted to be awarded the rights and I’m sure our viewers will be captivated by the thrill and passion of Gaelic football and hurling.

“We are excited to be working with the GAA and providing extensive coverage to their exhilarating sports throughout the summer.

“These matches will join a great line-up of Irish sport on Sky Sports that includes UEFA World Cup Qualifiers, RaboDirect Pro 12, Euro 2016 Qualifiers, Irish Open golf, Irish rugby union Autumn Internationals and summer tour to Argentina, Premier League darts and more.”

JD Buckley, Managing Director of Sky Ireland, said: “It’s a privilege to be partnering with the GAA to bring our customers top quality content from our national game.

“We are committed to providing the best programming, service and value to our customers and Sky Sports will offer world class production values and a great viewing experience to GAA fans across the country.

“This marks another milestone in our continued investment in Ireland to better satisfy our customers.”

Richard Sweeney, General Manager of Premier Sports, commented: “We are delighted to continue to be the main broadcaster of GAA and offer fans in Great Britain the above content for the great value price of only £9.99 per month.”

Shane Glynn, Editor of Sport at BBC Northern Ireland, said he was “delighted” that the corporation had agreed a new deal with the GAA.

“Broadcast rights are highly competitive and complex, particularly in television,” he said.

“While we would have liked to be able to provide more live coverage for our audience, we are pleased to have been able to secure live television coverage, within the constraints of what was available to us, of games in the Ulster Championship on BBC NI over the next three years.

“Our commitment to Gaelic Games on BBC Radio Ulster remains significant. It will include programming across the year, including live coverage of the Ulster Club and Ulster Senior Football Championships, and games in the National League, qualifiers and All-Ireland Championship involving Ulster counties.”

Peter McKenna, Croke Park Stadium and GAA Commercial Director, commented: “While negotiation of these rights was a lengthy process, we were determined to bring our games to as many people as possible in all parts of the world.

“Supporters of hurling and football living outside Ireland will have easier access to our games than ever before, while viewers in Ireland can watch almost 100 live games on free-to-air terrestrial TV, in addition to games on Sky and Setanta Sports.”

In a separate development, RTE and the GAA are to launch an online paid-for service offering Gaelic Games to audiences worldwide. Games will be streamed in HD with studio programming exactly as broadcast to audiences in Ireland

The online service will enable users to watch the games on iPad or Android tablet, laptop, PC, Smart TV, or on mobile phone.

For further background and information about GAA, visit the official website.

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