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'We felt this was the way to go eventually' - inside the LGFA's subscription streaming service

The comprehensive live-streaming platform will show over 100 games that are not available on TG4.

The new-look live-streaming service kicks off this weekend.
The new-look live-streaming service kicks off this weekend.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

THERE WAS SOME trepidation before the news was announced. 

Perhaps a slight fear of the unknown of what lay ahead as the press release was sent out.

Ladies Gaelic Football Association announces details of 2022 live-streaming service.

No going back.

The fine print? This would be a subscription model, with previously free-to-watch-online matches going behind a paywall.

“I suppose when you put it out there, you’re going, ‘Oh God, how is this going to go down?” LGFA Commercial and Communications Manager Jackie Cahill tells The42.

The new subscription streaming service begins this weekend with the opening round of the 2022 Lidl Ladies National Football League, and will cover over 100 games that aren’t being televised on TG4 across the league, championship and All-Ireland club series. So basically, that’s over 100 matches available in a one-stop shop.

Fans can sign up for a season ticket that covers the whole lot in 2022 for just €50; a weekend pass costs €10, while a single game is available for €5. There is also the option to buy single games after they have concluded for €3 each.

The reaction has been largely positive, with social media users hailing the initiative and value for money, while suggesting that other organisations should follow their lead.

“The vast majority of people are saying, ‘Yeah, it’s a good way to go,’” Cahill notes. “We hope people enjoy the service.

“Look, we have had to introduce the subscription fee, it’s just a matter of necessity on so many levels. It’s a massive outlay for us every year to stream, we hope that people understand that to keep this going, we have to go down this road.”

After years of successful streaming, which understandably ramped up amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a feeling within the Association that this was coming.

A lot of thinking, and talking about it was done.

“We’re hopefully emerging from the pandemic, or certainly over the worst of it, so we’re caught with a situation from a moral point of view where people – potentially a Mum and Dad and a couple of kids are going to a game, filling their car with diesel, paying their money in at the turnstiles, getting food on the way home, so that’s cost for those people.

“But on the flip side of that, you could have somebody sitting at home who just turns on and watches for free. On top of that as well, we would have spent a substantial amount of money on streams. It was a costly exercise.

“We wanted to strike a fine balance between emerging from the pandemic and at the same time, trying to bring some of the best practices that we’ve had in terms of streaming along with us as we come into, hopefully, the return to normality.

jackie-cahill LGFA Commercial and Communications manager, Jackie Cahill. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“There’s probably an audience there as well, they now see streaming as a given — from us anyway. We wanted to keep streaming for people, we have a massive following abroad who obviously can’t get to the matches, and we have people who may be old and incapacitated and still want to watch the games, and we’re able to give them that service as well.

“Your die-hards will still go to the matches, but there’s a new cohort of people now who are at home and they can watch the games and they like that. Particularly older and more vulnerable people, they can sit at home and watch the games, and we’re delighted to provide that service for them.”

It was a case of marrying it all together and, as Cahill says, striking a balance.

Over the past few years, the LGFA have linked up with production companies, the vast majority of whom provide commentators while others require sourcing them from elsewhere, so it’s a matter of working alongside five or six of those, and pay-per-view company InPlayer, to provide the service.

“There’s a lot involved,” Cahill, the main organiser behind it all, concedes. “The source of production companies, we’re lucky to be working with guys who are really good.

“I suppose the last couple of years have given us learnings – we now know that these lads that we get on board to do our matches can get the job done. We might encounter the odd glitch along the way, but at the same time, I think we had a pretty much 100% hit-rate in the 2021 championship in terms of our streams.

“We’ve got good people, and that’s really, really important, particularly when you’re going behind a paywall. There’s no excuses – you pay your money, you expect your product. The lads know this. I suppose there’s a little bit of extra pressure on them as well that we have to get this right. But we’re confident that the structures are in place.”

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Planning is done well in advance, with arrangements firmly in place for the first three rounds of the league, at least. 

2022-lidl-ladies-national-football-leagues-launch Inter-county stars at the 2022 Lidl Ladies National Football Leagues launch on Tuesday. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Sign-ups are mounting ahead of opening weekend, with the recent All-Ireland senior, intermediate and junior club finals whetting the appetite for streaming.

While crowd restrictions were lifted and big numbers attended all three deciders, viewing figures on the streams reflected the wide interest.

“Towards the end of the Sylvester’s game last Sunday,” Cahill notes, referencing the All-Ireland intermediate final, “we had over 2000 devices tuning into the Facebook Live stream, which is an incredible amount of people.

“If you extrapolate that out, you could have two or three people watching it. It’s the power of numbers, that 2000 devices might equate to 6000 people. There’s definitely a hunger and an appetite for streamed matches, so we’re just really happy to include the three competitions this year.”

“It’s a huge undertaking, I have to say, and there’s a lot of planning and a lot of logistics involved in it,” he adds.

“We probably would have felt that this was coming, that this was the way to go eventually, but we had to trial it and make sure that all of the processes are robust before you take it behind the paywall.

“Last year was really good for us, really positive and strong, so fingers crossed.

“Press play and off we go!”

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Emma Duffy

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