The Irish television market, while small, is mature and competitive, with a wide range of operators and platforms offering both domestic, UK and international channels.
Ireland had a population of 4.8 million people in 1.7 million occupied households at the end of 2017. There were 1.6 million television households, representing a national television penetration of 92.2 per cent.
Since 2012, Ireland has seen an increase in the number of households that do not have a television set. These ‘No TV homes’ can still watch television per se due to the increased availability of television content over the internet and on multiple devices, meaning that these households do not watch television through traditional reception methods on a TV set.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is the regulator of broadcasting in the country. The BAI is responsible for regulating content across all Irish broadcasting services, licensing and broadcasting contracts, compliance and enforcement, media ownership, the administration of the broadcasting fund, consumer protection including broadcasting complaints, and preparing and developing broadcasting codes and rules.
Ireland has designated sporting events as being of major importance to society and as such are required to be transmitted live on a free-to-air television service.
The current designated sports events are listed below:
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• Summer Olympics
• All-Ireland Senior Inter-County Football & Hurling Finals
• All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Final
• All-Ireland Senior Camogie Final
• Ireland’s home and away qualifying games for the Uefa European Championship and Fifa World Cup
• Ireland’s games in the Uefa European Championship and Fifa World Cup
• The opening games, semi-finals and final of the Uefa European Championship and Fifa World Cup
• Ireland’s games in the Rugby World Cup
• The Irish Grand National and the Irish Derby
• The Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse Show
There are three major Irish players in the free-to-air market; two public service broadcasters – RTÉ and TG4 – and one national commercial broadcaster, Virgin Media Television.
KEY SPORTS RIGHTS
Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) is Ireland’s national public service media organisation with services across television, radio, online, mobile and social media. It is the leading television broadcaster in Ireland, with four primary national channels (RTÉ One, RTÉ2, RTÉ News Now and RTÉjr) and video on-demand platform RTÉ Player. RTÉ’s channels combined for 25.3 per cent of all television viewing in November 2018. Flagship channel, RTÉ One, was the most popular channel in November 2018, the latest officially reported month, with a market share of 18.6 per cent.
TELEVISION REACH AND SHARE, NOVEMBER 2018
RTÉ is a publicly and commercially funded public service broadcaster. However, both these income streams have come under pressure in recent years, due to the weak advertising market and continued austerity around the licence fee. This has led to RTÉ undertaking a cost-saving plan across all areas of the business throughout the decade, including reduced spending on sports rights. Despite its financial challenges, the public broadcaster still boasts an impressive sports rights portfolio.
RTÉ acquired rights to the Olympic Games for both the 2018 winter edition in PyeongChang and the 2020 summer edition in Tokyo after successfully negotiating a sub-licensing agreement with Discovery.
The broadcaster holds a compelling suite of top-class soccer rights. RTÉ secured exclusive free-to-air broadcast rights to Ireland’s European qualifiers for the 2020 Uefa European Championship and the 2022 Fifa World Cup. Additionally, and in a separate agreement, RTÉ has also secured the exclusive free-to-air broadcast rights for the 2020 Uefa European Championship Finals. Furthermore, RTÉ already holds the rights to the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, in a deal that also included the rights for the completed 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.
Their soccer rights are not limited to international soccer, with RTÉ securing the rights to first choice Uefa Champions League matches on Tuesday nights for three years, from 2018-19 to 2020-21.
RTÉ retained the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) championship rights for five years. The broadcaster will screen 31 live senior championship games each year from 2017 to 2021, including all provincial hurling and football finals, both All-Ireland hurling and two All-Ireland football quarter-finals, and the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals in both football and hurling.
Additionally, and in a separate agreement with the GAA that runs from 2019 until 2022, RTÉ will simulcast four Allianz League games broadcast by Eir Sport while also begin showing games from the AIB Club Championships that will run alongside TG4’s coverage.
RTÉ and Horse Racing Ireland agreed a new three year broadcasting deal to show top horse racing events held in the country until 2020. The deal, starting in early 2018, sees RTÉ screening between 25 and 27 days of live racing coverage each year.
RTÉ will televise 14 live matches from the 2019 Rugby World Cup after purchasing sub-licensed rights from Eir Sport. The deal includes all of Ireland’s games, the knockout stages, including the final, plus a daily highlights programme.
RTÉ will continue to show Ireland’s home autumn rugby union internationals from 2018 to 2021, thanks to a new agreement with the IRFU, the sport’s governing body in Ireland.
It was rugby’s autumn internationals which provided RTÉ with its largest sports audience of 2018, and Ireland’s third highest rated programme of any genre for the year, when an average audience of 926,600 tuned in to RTÉ2 to witness Ireland’s historic win over New Zealand, their first ever victory over the ‘All Blacks’ on home soil.
Croatia’s win over England in the Fifa World Cup semi-final was watched by 924,400 viewers on RTÉ2, Ireland’s fourth highest rated programme in 2018.
On RTÉ2, both the hurling and football All-Ireland finals attracted large viewing figures, making them the sixth and seventh most watched programmes of 2018. The Galway v Limerick hurling clash pulled in an average audience of 854,400 viewers, while the Dublin v Tyrone football final drew an average audience of 841,100 viewers.
TG4, Ireland’s second public service broadcaster, is an Irish language television channel available on all platforms, including video on-demand platform TG4 Player.
It was the fifth most popular channel in November 2018 with an average market share of 1.6 per cent.
Like RTÉ, TG4 is a publicly and commercially funded public service broadcaster. The Government provided funding of €32.79 million to TG4 in 2017, with income also derived from selling commercial air-time and programme sponsorship.
TG4 holds the rights to Sunday afternoon fixtures from top GAA competitions including Allianz National Leagues and AIB All-Ireland Club Championships in both hurling and football for the 2017-2021 period.
TG4 acquired live rights to rugby’s Pro14 in Ireland through a sub-license agreement with main broadcaster, Eir Sports. The three-year deal, from 2018-19 to 2020-21, allows TG4 to show 21 regular season games.
TG4 has a long association of broadcasting the Tour de France. Since its inaugural coverage of the cycle race in 2005, the Tour de France has become a staple sport for the broadcaster.
Virgin Media Television, formerly TV3, is Ireland’s number one commercial broadcaster with three free-to-air channels including Virgin Media One, Virgin Media Two and Virgin Media Three, and a newly-launched subscription channel, Virgin Media Sports.
The broadcaster was the second most popular in November 2018, with its channels combining for a market share of 18.7 per cent. Its flagship channel, Virgin Media One, was the second most popular channel with a market share of 13.45 per cent in November 2018.
Virgin Media’s parent company Liberty Global bought TV3 in July 2015 in a deal worth up to €87m. Five months later, Virgin Media acquired TV3 from Liberty. In July 2016, Virgin Media purchased UTV Ireland, which was subsequently rebranded as be3 and included in TV3’s three-channel line-up. The TV3 Group was rebranded as Virgin Media Television in August 2018, with the groups three free-to-air channels, TV3, 3e and be3, rebranded as Virgin Media One, Virgin Media Two and Virgin Media Three, while the 3player became Virgin Media Player. A new subscription sports channel, Virgin Media Sports, was launched in September 2018. The sports channel will be free to Virgin television customers but will cost €10 per month for Virgin broadband and mobile customers and €20 a month for non-Virgin Media customers.
Virgin Media acquired rights to the Uefa Champions League and Uefa Europa League for three years, from 2018-19 to 2020-21. The deal sees Virgin Media cover the early Uefa Champions League game on a Tuesday night (17.55 kick-off), all Wednesday Uefa Champions League matches and all Thursday Uefa Europa League matches. However, only the Tuesday night game will be on free-to-air television, with all other matches to be shown on subscriber based Virgin Media Sport.
Other soccer properties held by Virgin Media include rights to the Uefa Nations League. The deal will see Virgin Media cover Uefa Nations League matches not featuring Ireland, full delayed coverage of Ireland’s matches and highlights of all games.
Additionally, Virgin Media secured rights to show club rugby’s Heineken Champions Cup live on free-to-air television for the first time since 2006. The broadcaster will cover one live group stage match per week, followed by one quarter-final and one semi-final, as well as the Champions Cup Final.
Virgin Media has signed a four-year partnership with Racecourse Media Group (RMG) to show British horse racing from 2017 to 2020. The key racing events include Cheltenham, Aintree, Epsom and Royal Ascot.
Virgin Media secured the rights to rugby’s Six Nations Championship from 2018 until 2021, with matches shown on free-to-air Virgin Media One. Ireland’s Grand Slam win over England on St Patrick’s Day 2018 averaged 975,600 viewers, making it the second most viewed programme of the year, and the most viewed sports programme of the year.
TOP 5 SPORTS TELEVISION PROGRAMMES 2018