Live sport on the telly continues to change as eir Sport switches off its coverage of PRO 14 rugby

The final between Munster and Leinster at the RDS on Saturday brings the curtain down on the broadcaster as they are not looking to extend their contract into next season
Live sport on the telly continues to change as eir Sport switches off its coverage of PRO 14 rugby

eir Sport presenter Tommy Bowe, left, and analysts Gordon D'Arcy and Peter Stringer will be on duty for the PRO 14 final between Munster and Leinster at the RDS Arena on Saturday. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

NOT only is the PRO 14 final between Munster and Leinster at the RDS on Saturday the last game of the season, but it also calls time on one of the broadcast stations.

In one of the most surreal campaigns ever because of Covid restrictions, both eir Sport and TG4 managed to keep the show on the road by providing live tv coverage of nearly every game.

But, for eir, this is the final curtain call as the station has decided not to bid for the rights to continue its coverage from next season on.

It should pave the way for another broadcaster or two maybe to dip their toes in the water, but you wonder is the third tier of the professional game an attractive proposition?

The PRO 14 lags behind the 6 Nations and the European Champions Cup, posing the obviously question as who, if anyone, will invest in the competition, apart from the Irish language network, who carry out their duties in a very professional manner.

Both the sport and the broadcaster have suffered badly in the pandemic with eir pointing to the impact of Covid-19 on live sports across the world in the past 12 months and its effects on the station’s finances due to the postponement of matches and competitions.

“The almost complete closure of licensed premises here in Ireland has fundamentally changed the commercial model for subscription-based sports broadcasters,” the company said in a statement.

The station experienced a whopping 47 per cent drop in its tv and content finances in the second-half of 2020 and this season isn’t getting any better.

And it’s not just rugby’s PRO 14 that will be hit because GAA and soccer are also going to be affected.

Eir took great pride in the way they covered live games in the national football and hurling leagues, often showing two live games on Saturdays and deferred coverage of others.

Under normal conditions they should now be in the thick of the action with the leagues hotting up, but, as we known, GAA activity has stalled.

The League of Ireland season kicked off last weekend without eir’s involvement though defending champions Shamrock Rovers’ game with St Patrick’s Athletic was shown on Network 2 on Friday night.

Eir’s declaration that they won’t be delving into the latest rounds of sports rights’ auctions has obvious consequences for the GAA and League of Ireland supporter.

“As we navigate these challenges, Eir has made the decision not to partake in the latest rounds of sports rights auctions,”, but did add that there was ‘no immediate change’ to its sport content.

It’s been a rough ride for the company, which is now owned by a French telecoms billionaire.

Eir bought Setanta Sports in 2016 and rebranded, hoping to cash in on its broadband network, but it’s been one big struggle, losing its BT Sport contract to show the English Premier League here.

And then last summer a dispute erupted between Virgin Media Sport and eir over payments under a reciprocal deal allowing subscribers to each of the platforms to view the other’s premium sports channels.

TV companies are facing into a decisive period for the live coverage of major sports because the Irish rights for the Champions’ League are due to be decided soon.

And, for the first time in its history, it appears the 6 Nations could be heading the way of pay-per-view, when a decision is finalised by the end of next month.

Factor in that all GAA rights are also going out to tender this year and you can see why there are many nervous bean counters in the various networks scratching their heads wondering what the final bill is going to look like.

If you find it all a bit puzzling at times as to what channel is showing what game and at what time, don’t despair because there are many of us in that predicament.

It’s a right maze, especially when trying to watch rugby in England or France.

BT shows the English league, but its French equivalent isn’t available here, so attempting to keep tabs on Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle ain’t easy.

And don’t even mention the European soccer leagues!

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