The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has teamed up with RTÉ to launch a new streaming platform to deliver coverage of the League of Ireland Premier Division at what the Irish public-service broadcaster describes as a “more than competitive” price.
The FAI and RTÉ Sport will work with GAAGO, the IPTV service co-owned by RTÉ and the Gaelic Athletic Association, on the platform, which will provide live coverage of every league match and selected FAI Cup fixtures.
Season passes for the watchloi.ie platform are available for €55 ($64) in Ireland and €69 for the rest of the world. Details of the platform have been revealed ahead of the resumption of the league on July 31.
Matches are set to be played without fans due to Covid-19 restrictions and the platform will provide live coverage of more than 55 league and cup fixtures at an average price of €1 per game.
Declan McBennett, head of sport at RTÉ, believes that both the price of the platform and the number of matches available will mean that fans can have few complaints over the coverage of Ireland’s top-tier competition.
He told the Irish Independent: “I’m not saying that this is a silver bullet by any stretch of the imagination but it’s an experiment that is worth doing, a project that is worth undertaking.
“The FAI see merit in it. GAAGO saw merit in it and you put the two of them together and we see what happens. There’s no excuses here. If this takes off, great for everybody. If it doesn’t and the numbers are not significant then there’s lessons there for everybody as well. The numbers of the subscriptions domestically and internationally will prove the merit of it.
“Nobody in soccer can say they’re not getting coverage here, this is pretty much every game now. The price point cannot be an issue because it’s more than competitive.”
At the end of 2015, the FAI signed a long-term agreement for the international streaming of League of Ireland matches with Trackchamp, a venture launched between data tracking company ChryonHego and betting operator Bwin.
However, the broadcast quality was limited to just an automated single camera production in standard definition.
RTE will continue to show a selected number of matches live on its regular TV platforms, as will pay-television sports broadcaster Eir Sport.
The newly-launched platform will differ to the GAAGO service in that it will be available to Irish viewers as well as overseas fans. McBennett said that RTÉ and the FAI will step up production of matches to ensure an enhanced viewing experience for supporters currently unable to attend matches.
He noted: “That’s the fundamental gamechanger in this. The domestic factor this year is that people can’t get to the games.
“You see the streaming option being explored by several codes and several sports but this is the biggest and most high profile one going because it involves the league, and it’s got a structure where the fixtures are very much set out (for streaming purposes).
“This is not a low scale operation. There are things that RTÉ and broadcasters bring to a dimension, a higher standard of production values, better commentary. Most games will have additional cameras on them. We’ve got to see how that goes but, again, there’s a cycle here, the more that people buy into it, the greater the production will be in a sense. That’s what gives us the excitement around it. There’s an opportunity here but there won’t be any excuses.
“It’s a new experiment and allows all codes to look at it and learn from it. We will sit back in October and see the value of what has just transpired, the merits of it, the benefit.
“Targets (sales) have never been mentioned, I can genuinely say that. Everybody will come back to this at the end and see where it goes and what the possibilities are.”