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GAA bite back at Virgin Media as GAAGO controversy rages on

Croke Park fire back in bid to clear up ‘factual errors and misleading comments’ made by terrestrial television rivals

The GAA have bit back at Virgin Media’s claims that they were not contacted about the possibility of purchasing media rights while outlining that they instead “chose not to bid” for hurling/football GAA games.

In a detailed statement, Croke Park have hit out at what they claim were “factual errors and misleading comments” about the GAAGO controversy. Below is the GAA’s statement in full on Media Rights:

“On Tuesday May 9th, VMTV (Virgin Media Television) issued a statement that called into question the integrity of the GAA Media Rights process. The statement contained several factual errors and misleading comments.

The GAA contacted VMTV and requested that they correct their statement. Since this has not been forthcoming, the GAA, reluctantly, issues the following to correct the record.

Strategically, the GAA media rights are designed to:

a) Maximise coverage. We bias toward ‘Free To Air’.

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b) Support the Irish language. We bias toward TG4.

c) Generate a fair commercial value for our rights. We seek to keep commercial tension to the fore by seeking an agile, competent third party.

From as early as February 2021, the GAA contacted VMTV and other parties to gauge their interest in acquiring rights packages that would become available in the renewal of the GAA media rights in 2022.

The initial call was followed up by a detailed description of the various packages available.

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Thereafter followed several meetings, telephone calls, emails and document exchanges between the parties.

The GAA did not receive a formal bid from VMTV or an expression of interest.

In June 2022, VMTV were again contacted to clarify that they did not intend to make a bid. VMTV were clear that their model was not to acquire rights but rather to acquire ‘ready to go’ packages ie productions which don’t require outside broadcast set-ups for live match coverage.

In short, VMTV were afforded every opportunity to discuss options, variations to packages and to submit a confidential offer. VMTV choose not to bid.

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GAA continued discussions with other parties.

Specifically in respect of one party, the GAA was unable to deliver Sky’s preferred selection as strategically we wanted greater free to air coverage for our National League Package.

These rights subsequently went to TG4 and RTÉ. Whilst Sky did bid for a lesser package, the GAA decided to progress with GAAGO.

This was because GAAGO could facilitate greater flexibility on match schedules, provide coverage for an additional 24 games and offer the opportunity for more flexible pricing for viewers and members. The finances involved were in fact similar.

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Recently GAAGO has been the subject of considerable commentary and we will conduct a comprehensive review of its operation at season end.”

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