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Free-to-air only TV decision could cost the GAA €15m

By John Campbell

The GAA stands to lose as much as €15m over the next three years if it decides this weekend to lock TV rights for Championship coverage into a free-to-air deal only.

Dublin will lead the attempt at Congress to introduce a rule preventing any future deals with subscription channels such as Sky Sports.

Effectively, that would restrict the market to RTE and TV3 only and inevitably lead to a massive drop in revenue.

Media income, the bulk of which was derived from selling Championship rights, yielded €11.3m last year and industry sources say that it would drop dramatically if the GAA shrinks the market through a self-imposed rule.

It's estimated that the decrease could be up to €5m per year for the period of the next TV rights agreement, which runs from 2017-19.

The GAA dealt with Sky for the first time three years ago, selling 14 exclusive Championship games for 2014, '15 and '16, with RTE holding the main package, comprising 31 games. Both channels showed the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals.

Prior to that, the possibility of doing a deal with Sky strengthened the GAA's hand in negotiating with RTE and TV3.

GAA director-general Paraic Duffy has already expressed opposition to introducing a free-to-air rule, stating that it would "seriously reduce our negotiating power."

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