RTÉ and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) have denied any conflict of interest over the GAAGO streaming service. Declan McBennett, the RTÉ Group Head of Sport, appeared before an Oireachtas committee and stated that RTÉ is contractually obligated to broadcast 31 GAA games each year. He rejected any suggestion that the GAA and RTÉ are complicit in putting games behind a paywall. McBennett acknowledged that there is an issue with access to GAAGO, particularly for those with poor broadband connections. He attributed this to the wider problem of broadband rollout in Ireland. Labour Senator Marie Sherlock raised concerns about the access issue and questioned the necessity of GAAGO.
GAA Director General Tom Ryan also appeared before the committee and revealed that GAAGO generates €4 million in annual revenue. Ryan emphasized the GAA’s responsibility to earn a reasonable income, either through broadcasting or ticket sales. He was unable to provide a breakdown of the revenue from GAAGO, but stated that national viewership is greater than international viewership. The most viewed games on GAAGO attract between 100,000 and 120,000 viewers, while the least viewed games have between 1,000 and 1,500 viewers. The total audience for GAAGO games this year was 1.3 million.
Donnchadh Boyle analyzed the GAAGO model and highlighted its importance. Ryan explained that the GAA approached multiple broadcasters and potential partners before the contract with Sky TV expired. When asked about a conflict of interest with RTÉ, Ryan deferred to the broadcaster to answer that question. He stated that 22% of GAA revenue comes from broadcasting and does not anticipate this changing. Fine Gael TD Ciaran Cannon praised GAAGO for its role in connecting the Irish diaspora to GAA games. Ryan explained that during the pandemic, the GAA had to adapt its broadcasting model, resulting in not all games being feasible to broadcast.
Fianna Fáil TD Chris O’Sullivan expressed public frustration over high-profile games being exclusively available on GAAGO. He cited an example where a constituent’s father-in-law had to travel to watch a Cork vs Tipperary match. Ryan acknowledged that choices have to be made regarding which matches are shown and stated that it is not feasible to broadcast every game. The coverage of GAA championship games has become a contentious political issue due to GAAGO. Ryan suggested that over half of the GAA’s broadcasting income is derived from GAAGO. FG TD Brendan Griffin questioned whether there should be county quotas for broadcasting, to which Ryan responded that there is currently no county quota system in place.
Independent TD Danny Healy Rae criticized RTÉ for its limited coverage of Kerry games and expressed disappointment that only one game was broadcast on TV.