THE GUINNESS PRO14 is set to have a new Irish television broadcaster next season, with eir Sport close to finalising a deal with tournament organisers.
The42 understands that eir has outbid Sky Sports for the rights to the Pro14 for the 2018/19 season.
Eir has been aggressively ramping up its presence within rugby in recent times, most notably by winning the Irish broadcasting rights for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Eir has provided live coverage of Ireland’s summer tour to the US and Japan last year, as well as the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland, and took on rights for the World U20 Rugby Championship from last year through until 2019.
Eir also broadcast Ireland’s win over the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016, has provided live coverage of schools rugby from Leinster and Munster in recent years, and will show the Rugby Sevens World Cup later this year.
Its rugby package currently includes highlights of the Guinness Pro14 but next season will see eir broadcasting live Pro14 games for the first time, after they muscled in ahead of Sky.
The deal is set to be eir’s biggest rights acquisition yet, providing a major boost to the Pro14, for whom it is also believed to be the biggest deal to date on the Irish market.
It is believed that eir’s offering will be more Irish-focused than is the case with Sky, with Irish pundits and commentators to be favoured.
It is understood that eir’s deal with the Pro14 could involve a sub-licensing agreement, meaning TG4 may still be able to provide coverage of the championship.
Sky first took on rights for the Pro14 for the 2014/15 season and have remained in place as tournament broadcasters ever since. However, it appears that they will miss out next season as eir gets set to copper-fasten its new deal with the Pro14.
While the value of the deal remains to be legally agreed and confirmed, it is thought that eir’s arrival onto the scene will boost the coffers of the Pro14, raising the TV rights revenue from its current figure, believed to be around €14 million per season.
The eir Sport pack, consisting of seven channels including BT Sport, is currently free to all eir broadband customers.
Sky customers are required to pay a subscription fee for the eir Sport add-on package, although Virgin Media removed the eir Sport pack from its services last year.
The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):
‘You don’t play to run up and down hills’: Rory Best chasing long overdue taste of victory in Ulster jersey