Eir set to cease sports broadcasting after major loss of revenue

TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANY AND broadcaster Eir has opted out of bidding for sports rights in the latest round of auctioning and is set to bring to an end its venture into sports television.

In a statement first released to the Irish Independent, Eir specified that the pandemic and the accompanying closure of pubs have rendered the eir Sport business model no longer viable, though it stressed that it was “exploring options for the future” of its sports-TV network and that there would be “no immediate change to the content provided by eir Sport.”

The statement began: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on live sports across the world. Matches and competitions have been cancelled or postponed throughout the last year, disrupting the availability of live sports content.

“In addition, the almost complete closure of licensed premises here in Ireland has fundamentally changed the commercial model for subscription-based sports broadcasters. As we navigate these challenges, eir has made the decision not to partake in the latest rounds of sports rights auctions.

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“There is no immediate change to the content provided by eir sport. We are currently exploring options for the future of eir sport.”

Staff were formally informed of the developments on Thursday morning.

Eir Sport’s difficulties were accentuated in Eir’s results for the second half of 2020 which showed an almost 50% drop in TV and content revenues from €22 million to €12 million. This pales in comparison to Eir’s overall €297m revenue in merely the final quarter of 2020, putting into perspective the relevance of its sports channels, or conversely lack thereof, to the parent company’s broader mission.

Eir acquired Setanta Sports in 2015 and rebranded it to eir Sport the following year, its intention being to use exclusive sports TV rights as a vehicle from which to push broadband sales and services. Eir was taken over by French telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel in 2018.

Eir Sport’s contract with the Guinness Pro14 rugby competition involving the Irish provinces, which began in the same year as Niel’s takeover, is set to expire at the end of this season. Eir Sport has also in recent years broadcast League of Ireland football and that of the English and European variety, as well as Allianz League GAA and major professional boxing events.

In 2019, Eir and Virgin Media agreed to broadcast each other sports channels on their respective platforms through 2021. However, this relationship reached a tumultuous end last summer with Virgin alleging it was owed €2.5m of a total €6m, three-year consideration at around the midway point in the deal.

Virgin subsequently pulled its feed from the Eir network in August 2020 as a result of what it alleged was a missed payment, while Eir cited pandemic complications in insisting it could “only pay for the sports events that actually take place.”

Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Gavan Casey preview Ireland’s game against England and try to figure out where this team is going under Andy Farrell, if anywhere:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud