This summer's GAA Championship broadcasting coverage by RTÉ was recently announced. In total the free-to-air provider will screen 31 football, hurling and camogie matches from May until September (excluding possible replays), BSkyB will again screen 14 games exclusively live on subscription channel Sky Sports, and share a further six matches with RTÉ. In total, a minimum of 45 games will be broadcast live on both terrestrial and free-to-air television over the coming months.
While the volume of live games being broadcast does not compare to the Premier League (200 matches will be screened live next season), 45 fixtures on television is very big when one compares it even to the recent past of the GAA.
Before competition structure was dramatically altered in the late 1990s and early 2000s, competitions were a straight knockout. The number of games (excluding replays) was therefore N-1. Assuming 32 counties of Ireland entered both the Liam McCarthy and Sam Maguire, the maximum number of games per year was limited to 62.
The changes to competition structure have removed this limit and significantly increased broadcasting revenues that can be generated. It should be no surprise to see a round-robin format now used in the Munster Senior Hurling Championship, and in the later stages of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. As many international competitions such as the Premier League and NFL continue to demonstrate, the revenue achievable from broadcasting deals can mean that gate-receipts become secondary.
With the current broadcasting agreement set to run until 2021, the status quo of 45 games per season will likely continue for the next two year. However, do not be surprised to see additional fixtures from 2021. This may mean screening earlier games in the provincial championships or further rule changes, to expand upon existing league formats and other second-chance routes.