Cahal Carvill

CAHAL CARVILL: Sky’s the limit

IN the iconic scene from the hit HBO drama ‘Succession’, the Roy family patriarch and series protagonist Logan Roy sits atop his New York Office while chaos ensues all around him.

Waystar RoyCo’s chief counsel, Gerry Kellman, enters the glass office announcing that the FBI are here with a warrant. Logan answers with his usual retort of; “Tell them to f**k off”. Gerry in typical fashion goes on to calmly explain to Logan that “these are the type of FBI that don’t f**k off”.

The hit TV series is allegedly premised on the Murdoch family with the Logan Roy supposedly based on the 91-year-old Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Sky Corporation and one of the biggest media magnets in the world today.


Earlier this week, it was announced that Sky and the GAA were not renewing their partnership agreement that brought some GAA games behind the paywall back in 2014 to much lamenting and gnashing of teeth.

The announcement of the original partnership actually took place on April’s Fool’s Day, the GAA traditionalist pausing for a punch-line. Liam O’Neill, then GAA president back in 2014, when announcing the deal confirmed that “I didn’t negotiate it, but I did agree to take the flak for it”. Who can forget that at the time he was hauled up before the Dail to explain why the deal was done?

Since that date further inter-county games have gone behind the paywall on Virgin Media, ironically with much less fanfare or gnashing of teeth.

JD Buckley, chief executive of Sky Ireland, confirmed on Monday that, “Despite our participation in the broadcast rights bidding process, lengthy negotiations and strong willingness on both sides to continue our partnership, Sky and the GAA have been unable to reach a renewal agreement.”

It is believed that the GAA was unwilling to move on increasing Sky’s output and didn’t take too kindly to Sky’s suggestion that the new split season caused Sky issues from a broadcast perspective, with this being perceived by the men in suits at Croke Park as Sky trying to influence the competition structures.

Buckley went on to confirm that, “A factor in this decision has been the new shortened GAA season and its knock on impact on the number of games Sky Sports wanted to broadcast.”

Say what you want about Sky’s involvement in the GAA but it is hard to deny that they have made everyone else raise their game.

The reality is (and it appears that some GAA commentators are afraid to say it) Sky’s coverage and insightful panel members as well as their use of technology has made RTÉ’s coverage look like the poor relation.

The argument made against Sky’s involvement was that rural Ireland, bachelor farmers and turf-cutters would never see another GAA game again in their lives.

Those apocalyptic prophecies ultimately never came to fruition as every pub in the country has a Sky subscription, and if anything the move behind the paywall was an excuse to go for a few jars.

Social media is full of those cheering on the end of the Sky/GAA partnership, but the reality is (despite what Sky say about wanting more games) the experiment was doomed to fail. Though the GAA games, whether football and hurling, are a much superior product than say Leeds v Nottingham Forest in the Premier League, there just aren’t enough engaged eyeballs in the UK and Ireland to make the partnership lucrative for Sky.

Like Logan Roy, Rupert Murdoch and the guys at Sky aren’t really interested in spreading the GAA gospel to a wider audience, they are interested in the bottom line and at the end of the day there weren’t enough people tuning in to see All-Ireland quarter-finals or round two qualifiers.

Past GAA president Sean Kelly, commenting in The Irish Times after the announcement on Monday, stated that “the worst thing of all [about the exit of Sky Sports] would be a monopoly because with that comes complacency.” A comment no doubt directed at RTE.

On Tuesday, both RTÉ and (thankfully) the BBC announced new agreements with the Association to expand their coverage.

In total RTÉ will screen 31 GAA championship games across Ireland, while they will also broadcast the Joe McDonagh Cup Final and both Tailteann Cup semi-finals and final for the next five years. The BBC’s new agreement will see the BBC showing both the All-Ireland senior hurling and football finals live for the first time, with a new five-year contract also including live coverage of up to eight Ulster Senior Football Championship matches per season. Thomas Niblock will be busy.

What the BBC and RTÉ should also do is to harvest the talent from the now defunct Sky team. Peter Canavan, much like his playing days, must be the first man on the RTÉ’s teams sheet as well as presenter Gráinne McElwain who was a revelation and in my view is the best female presenter in the country.

It remains to be seen whether this new carve-up adds to the broadcasting standards and although few may be deterred by Sky’s exit from the market, it remains to be seen whether RTÉ or the BBC can reach the previous standards set by the global broadcaster, or whether like Logan Roy, the GAA’s succession planning will leave much to be desired.

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