The closure of Eir Sport mirrors a similar announcement from BT over their own sports content a few weeks ago
Despite rising customer numbers, Ireland’s Eir has recorded a 3% drop in revenues in its most recent quarterly results. This loss is primarily due to a decrease in income from voice calls, as well as from the operator’s sports content.
As a result, following a lengthy review, the company has now announced that Eir Sport will cease broadcasting later this year.
"The challenges of the last year have fundamentally changed the commercial model for sports broadcasters, with more sporting events moving to free-to-air and premium broadcasting rights becoming increasingly expensive,"said a statement from Eir. "We are refocusing our resources on our core business of providing the best mobile and broadband networks and services for our customers."
This decision has been coming for some time. The almost complete closure of licenced premises throughout the pandemic, not to mention the disruption of the sporting events themselves, has drastically limited the viability of a subscription model for sports broadcasters everywhere, not only in Ireland.
The company currently owns the rights to Guinness Pro14 rugby, as well as League of Ireland and National League GAA games. Signs of Eir’s impending withdrawal came in March, when Eir indicated that it would not bid in the latest round of sports rights auctions.
The sports media ecosystem has also become contentious in the last year, with Eir and Virgin media, who had an agreement to broadcast each other’s sports channels, had a disagreement over payments, with Virgin alleging it was owed €2.5 million from €6 million three-year deal.
Earlier this month, BT announced they were selling their broadcasting arm for similar reasons, suggesting that the high cost of sports’ rights coupled with reduced viewership and the rise of streaming services had made the business untenable.
This also comes at a time when operators are facing large infrastructure deployment costs, both for fibre broadband and 5G. Struggling media channels are quickly becoming little more than dead weight to be cut loose.
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