TV wars rage as Virgin drops Eir Sport and BT Sport channels, signs up Sky

19 Jul 2016

In a fresh blow to Eir’s TV sport ambitions, Virgin Media confirmed it has signed a long-term agreement with Sky

Virgin Media has confirmed that it is dropping the Eir Sport pack from 31 July and has signed a long-term agreement with Sky.

Eir said last night that it had been in negotiations with Virgin Media to agree a new set of terms to ensure that six channels of live sport that comprise the Eir Sport pack would continue to be carried on the Virgin platform.

These include 42 Premier League matches, live FA Cup games, every Champions League and Europa League game, European Rugby Champions Cup, MMA and every Formula One race.

However, the negotiations came to naught and the decision affects 300,000 Virgin TV customers as the Eir Sport 1 channel (formerly Setanta Ireland) will disappear from channel 105. The channel carried Formula 1, GAA, FA Cup, Republic of Ireland and other live sports.

Last December, Eir acquired sports broadcaster Setanta for an undisclosed sum. The deal included BT Sports’ Irish rights. Eir rebranded its entire Eir Sport pack in recent weeks and this news comes as a blow to its ambitions.

Eir said that Eir Sport remains on all other TV platforms including Eir Vision, Sky and Vodafone in Ireland. All Eir broadband customers can receive the Eir Sport pack for free as part of an Eir broadband bundle.

“If Virgin Media wants to carry the channels from 1 August, Eir Sport is available for further talks to ensure their customers don’t miss out,” Eir stated last night.

Virgin confirms new deal with Sky

However, within an hour of Eir’s statement last night, Virgin Media issued a statement of its own confirming it is dropping the Eir Sport pack from 31 July and that it had secured a long-term agreement with Sky for the ongoing carriage of a number of channels, including Sky 1, Sky Living, Sky Arts and Sky News, as well as Sky Sports 1 through 5, Sky Sports News HQ and the newly rebranded Sky Cinema (formerly Sky Movies).

The agreement will give Virgin Media Ireland customers access to 159 live FA Premier League games, which includes 33 live Premier League games on Saturdays – only available in the Republic of Ireland.

In addition, Virgin Media will carry the new Sky channel, Sky Sports Mix, which will broadcast live sports, analysis and entertainment and will be available to all Virgin Media Ireland TV subscribers.

“Right now, Virgin Media Ireland customers have all the key Sky Sports channels in HD and can also access this content via the Sky Go apps and website,” said Bill Blake, head of TV content at Virgin Media.

“Sky is offering 159 Live Premier League Games compared to 42 in the Eir Sport Pack, and the Champions League top pick games are on RTÉ and Virgin Media-owned TV3 for 2016/2017.”

Football TV image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years