Virgin Media TV release statement regarding ownership and rights deal for GAAGO
On Monday’s episode of RTÉ One’s Upfront current affairs program, hosted by Katie Hannon, former GAA President Liam O’Neill voiced his concerns over the paywalling of GAA sports onto the GAAGO platform. GAAGO is a joint venture between RTÉ and the GAA.
Reasons for Putting Games Behind Paywall
According to Mr. O’Neill, the GAA made the decision to put the games behind a paywall in the best interest of the sport and at the time, TV3, a broadcaster that had covered GAA games, was going out of business. With only one station covering the games, the GAA decided to explore other options.
Clarification from Virgin Media Television
Virgin Media Television (VMTV), which purchased TV3 in July 2015 and rebranded it as Virgin Media Television in June 2018, has asked for a clarification from Mr. O’Neill. VMTV asserts that TV3 did not go out of business, but was instead purchased by Virgin Media and continues to be the leading independent, commercial public service broadcaster in Ireland.
Lack of Clarity over RTÉ’s Stake in GAAGO
The fact that RTÉ is a 50% shareholder in GAAGO has not been clarified in any editorial discussion about the decision to show key games on pay-per-view television only. This raises questions about whether RTE paid anything for the rights or simply agreed to keep them behind a paywall to increase revenue for both partners in GAAGO.
Did GAA Approach Other Broadcasters?
When Sky Television declined to renew its GAA rights, the GAA did not approach other broadcasters to see if they were interested in broadcasting the games. Instead, the GAA made the decision to put them behind a paywall.
Impact on License Payers
With RTÉ now having more sports rights than it can show on its channels, the decision to put GAA sports behind a paywall means that license payers must further subsidize RTÉ by paying for GAA Sports content through its joint-venture with the GAA. The question must be asked if this is fair to license payers.