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09th May 2023

Virgin Media comes out swinging for RTÉ and the GAA with explosive GAAGO statement

Niall McIntyre

Virgin Media have issued a statement on the back of the recent debate surrounding GAA broadcasting.

Unrest has been in the GAA air these past few weeks over the coverage of our games. It all came to a head on Sunday night when, from the RTÉ studios in Donnybrook, former Cork goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack’s criticism even stretched to his own employers.

It all started when Sky Sports left the market.

The GAA GO streaming service has filled the void but, clearly, it doesn’t appeal to everyone.

It doesn’t have the same reach as terrestrial tv and it has led to some games – Munster hurling championship games in particular – getting lost along the way.

RTÉ’s defence is that, in this condensed inter-county season, there are too many games to cover but, as suggested in Monday’s GAA Hour – why aren’t other channels like Virgin Media and TG4 getting the chance?

Former GAA president Liam O’Neill said recently on ‘Upfront’ that the reason Virgin Media weren’t getting games was because they (TV3) had gone out of business.

That is why Virgin Media issued the below correction statement on Tuesday, in which they criticised the GAA for not approaching them re. broadcasting some championship games.

The fact that RTÉ is a part owner of the GAAGO platform is also mentioned, and the question is asked by Virgin Media how much RTÉ had to pay for these rights – or indeed if they had to pay at all.

“On RTÉ One’s Upfront current affairs programme hosted by Katie Hannon last night (Monday 8th May 2023), former GAA president Liam O’Neill was addressing the issue of the paywalling of GAA sports onto the GAAGO platform, a joint venture between RTÉ and the GAA,” read the Virgin Media statement.

“During his comments, Mr. O’Neill said, “We did it in the best interests of games because, at the time TV3 was going out, and it ultimately went out of business. We would only [have] had one station covering, we thought it was best to examine other options.”

“Virgin Media Television wishes it to be clarified that TV3 did not go out of business, as stated by Mr. O’Neill.

“Based on its continuous success and achievements as a leading Irish broadcaster, TV3 was purchased by Virgin Media in July 2015 and subsequently rebranded to Virgin Media Television in June 2018 where VMTV continues to be the leading independent, commercial public service broadcaster in Ireland.

“RTÉ is a 50% shareholder in GAAGO, this has never been clarified in any editorial discussion about GAAGO and the decision not to show key games on Free to Air television.

“When Sky Television decided not to renew its GAA rights, the GAA did not approach other broadcasters to ascertain whether they would be interested in broadcasting these games but arbitrarily decided to put them behind a paywall.

“The question must be asked, did RTE pay anything for these rights or did they just agree to keep them behind a paywall to drive incremental revenues for both partners in GAAGO, i.e. RTÉ and the GAA

“Given the multi-million increases in State funding to RTÉ over recent years, RTÉ now has more Sports rights than it can show on its channels, with licence payers now being forced to further subsidise RTÉ by paying for GAA Sports content through its joint-venture with the GAA.”

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