Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

GAA could go global on own TV channel

Down's Ryan McMenamin

Gaelic Athletic Association chiefs are considering an unprecedented break away from the traditional broadcasters of Gaelic games, the Belfast Telegraph can today reveal.

This may take the form of an Internet-based channel that relies on subscriptions, but they have not ruled out the possibility of negotiating with Sky TV in trying to secure a dedicated channel for Gaelic games.

With the Irish population in the United States and Australia growing and estimates putting emigrations at 240 a day, this could prove to be a means of catering for those abroad as well as at home.

The news will also create alarm at RTE and TV3 whose current broadcast deals are due to run out at the end of the National League in 2014. This development certainly leaves the GAA in a position of strength when it comes to sitting down around the negotiation table.

Former Tyrone footballer and Belfast Telegraph GAA columnist Ryan McMenamin supports the logic behind the latest development, commenting: "It would be a smart move for the Association. It definitely leaves them with a strong hand to play off when it comes to sitting down with RTE and TV3 and whoever."

Coverage of the sport on RTÉ in particular has left many divided on what their responsibilities are to the GAA. The coverage given over to Joe Brolly's reaction to Sean Cavanagh's by now infamous tackle on Conor McManus in Tyrone's football quarter-final against Monaghan led to RTÉ being in the centre of a media storm.

While RTÉ may have been pleased with the level of coverage they received, there are those who feel lines are being crossed with virulent criticism of amateur players. Another area of concern for RTÉ might be the possibility of a theoretical 'GAA TV' poaching some advertisers who currently are occupying the lucrative slots during The Sunday Game.

Ryan McMenamin added: "It could open up a way to have pay-per-view, if it is going to be fixed online. It might only be four or five pounds to pay, but it is a way that the GAA are going to need to look at very carefully. They will need to consider the revenue amount, and weigh that up against what they get already from TV rights.

"A lot of TV being produced now is web-based, so it makes a lot of sense for the GAA to go down this route. I think the games online on the web are going to suit people in America and Australia that have emigrated in recent times. There is a huge Irish connection out there now."

In recent years, a number of Ulster counties have begun filming their club Championship games, with Armagh and Down running impressive models. These are supported by subscribers paying a small fee to watch the action from all corners of the globe as well as advertising.

Setanta Ireland have made huge efforts with their National League, coverage but a dedicated GAA channel would allow new audiences time and space to develop an appreciation without scheduling pressures.

Internet-enabled televisions are a growing seller now in the digital age and it seems inevitable that any agreement the GAA may make with the more traditional broadcasters will be a short-term deal, as they seek to develop their own ideas.

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