Gavan Reilly

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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Who needs senior football when you have minor hurling?

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tribune_logoYesterday’s GAA calendar:
2 x GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 4 qualifier games
1 x GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 3 qualifier game

2 x GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Relegation semi-finals
2 x GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Relegation quarter-finals

Yup. Three big football games, dominating the day, with two minor hurling matches and two predictable hurling relegation playoffs buffering coverage for the small stick.


Today’s Sunday Tribune GAA coverage: [across 5 pages]
1/3rd page – Hurling Relegation semi-final coverage (one game)
1 and 1/3rd page – Football previews/analysis
2 pages – Hurling previews/analysis (including two minor quarter-finals)

Total senior football matches: three. Total mentions or references (of any sort!) to them: zero.
Total senior hurling matches: two. Total mentions or references: one.
Total minor hurling matches: two. Total mentions: two.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of the Sunday Tribune and specifically its sports coverage. The Sports Editor PJ Cunningham was, in his day, a tremendous sports columnist for the Indo and the Tribune‘s sports coverage has always been nothing short of top-notch – the Mad About Sport magazine that fell victim to falling circulation will be missed. But when there’s seven big matches on and your paper only gives any coverage (I’m not joking, there isn’t even a pinch of a mention for the other games) to the three least prominent games, you have to wonder whether the mainstream media’s excuse of online erosion is really the reason they’re all going under.

Written by Gav

July 26th, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Q&A’s Final Show

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A very quick thought… last night, Questions and Answers wrapped up with a one-on-one interview with Brian Cowen by John Bowman, bringing the curtain down on an Irish political institution.

An Spailpín Fánach says a lot of what needs to be said quite brilliantly, but one thing that I thought went softly laden was the fact that although the show was filmed with a studio audience, those in attendance weren’t given the chance to, you know, ask questions.

Surely the best way to make the final show memorable – instead of rolling out clip after clip of Sinn Féin reps refusing to condemn murders – would have been to celebrate the only ever visit by a sitting Taoiseach by allowing the audience the chance to question him the way they no doubt would have wanted?

The premise of the show was about getting public figures into a room and essentially holding them accountable. It will forever be a shame that the final guest, the most powerful the show could ever get hold of, was allowed to break that mould.

Written by Gav

June 30th, 2009 at 9:45 pm

“So farewell Setanta. You were yellow.”

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Another one bites the dust. It might have a little more gravitas and invoke a little more patriotic sadness amongst the Irish community worldwide – particularly because Setanta pioneered ex-pat sports delivery to the global diaspora and its international arm continue to retain the worldwide rights to broadcast the GAA All-Ireland Championships on an international basis – but another fringe satellite channel has aimed too high, shot for the moon and failed to land amongst the stars.

Setanta was a wonderfully noble concept. Other satellite channels assumed they could grab the viewers in the hundreds of thousands and make a killing from premium phone lines. Setanta went for the bigger fish: why not try to get hold of the Premier League rights, or emerging fry like UFC?

There’s little to be said of Setanta’s life but thousands of miles of newsprint about the reasons it failed. The financial climate of course played its part, but realistically it came down to numbers. Setanta may only have gotten 69% of the customer base it needed to break even, but it still enticed 1.3m households to say, “yes, this is something I want to buy into”, and that’s no mean feat. What it may mean, though, is that Sky have simply become too big to compete with.

ESPN have swooped in to snap up the Premier League rights, arranging a standalone channel that’ll appear on the Sky platform (among others) and making a point of avoiding Setanta’s model of selling their own subscriptions. Whether the channel will be a pay-per-view effort like the short-lived PremPlus or whether Sky will have to pay ESPN to carry the channel, it’ll face a big uphill challenge trying to crack a monopoly that just keeps on growing and growing.

Will we miss it though? Well, it depends on what you got out of the channel. If you watched it for UFC, it’ll be on Bravo (probably) so things will live on just as they were. If you watched it for more innovative programming like Football Matters, hosted by the actually pretty great James Richardson, you’ll be hoping that some other channel takes back the not-so-groundbreaking-but-still-great formula of taking one fan from each club and putting them all in a room to talk to each other – it’s like Big Brother’s Big Mouth for sane people.

If, though, you watched it for the Premier League, will you miss it? Realistically, probably not. There was something parculiarly vacuous about Setanta’s Premiership coverage. The analysis was equally as bland and braindead as Sky’s (Jamie Redknapp saying Ronaldo is a “quality” player, versus Steve McManaman saying Ronaldo is a “great” player – spot the ball difference) but the actual match coverage seemed void and limp; even simple thinks like the volume of the crowd noise made the broadcasts pub-unfriendly and ultimately every match, no matter how high the Premier League stakes may have been, seemed like a token international friendly with nothing happening on screen, nothing happening in studio, and nothing happening in the subscriptions department.

I’ll miss Setanta, but only for the David versus Goliath notion that it was a pair of Irish lads who started off renting a pub in London to show an Ireland match in Italia 90, versus News Corp, BSkyB, Rupert Murdoch and Jamie fucking Redknapp. The understated approach hasn’t worked; now let’s see just how wrong ESPN get it in judging the tone that sports in Britain sits best in.

Anyway. That’s that, this is how it unfolded (via the self-adulating method of my own Twitter account), and this is how Setanta Sports News wrapped up, a mere 112 minutes after the company slipped away.

PS – credit for the title of this post goes to the hilariously funny Football365 Twitter account, @f365.

Written by Gav

June 23rd, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Swapping one Ronaldo for two Setantas

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Well, at least nobody could say it wasn’t coming. Six years after Rodney Marsh first appeared on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday corring, “Blimey, how good is this kid gonna be?”, and a seeming eternity (probably) since a spaghetti-haired teenage Portuguese first mentioned that he’d love to play for the Spanish legends, Fiorentino Pérez decided that he’d like to leave his club teetering on the edge of bankruptcy – again – by first skimming a stone across the world transfer record, and then dunking a boulder deep into it. In one week he has spent €162m – or £138m, if you like; the same price as all 42 members of the Newcastle United squad, plus their 53,000-seater stadium, and still leaving enough change to buy Luis Figo in his pompous heyday – and turned the already bonkers world of football financing into an even more tumultous tornado.

It’s not difficult to see that Ronaldo is a footballer of exceptional quality and certainly worth an awful lot of money. 91 goals in the last three seasons, helping Manchester United to a Premiership title in each of the three, and a Champions’ League sandwiched in the middle, are an obvious sign of impact. The fact that the man’s name alone can send adolescent women into fits of involuntary screaming and sell suitcases of cherry red jerseys worldwide is another. The Guardian‘s daily satirical newsletter, The Fiver, referring to Him only with a capitalised pronoun, and similarly naming his new team-to-be as Them, is a third. Certainly he’ll be missed; United, in a matter seemingly overlooked by many, will now find themselves with a major goalscoring vacuum. Ronaldo gone, Tevez surely leaving… it leaves a terrific burden on Dimitar Berbatov (14 goals last season) and Wayne Rooney (20), particularly when the latter has been converted into an unusual attacking midfielder/winger hybrid and forsaken his goalscoring prowess as a result.

But is he worth €94m? In a footballing sense, maybe. He’s a terrific player and will undoubtedly be the star in an underperforming team. Commercially, though, is he really going to be so lucrative? A Nike player now smack in the middle of an Adidas team? An import into a team who’ve already agreed their shirt sponsorship and can’t charge more for all the posters CR94 might now appear on? A team with their TV rights already agreed for years to come? Will he be worth more to Madrid than a Nike-wearing team in Manchester who have squeezed every Champions’ League goal, every shirt sponsorship deal (one can’t help thinking Aon Corp got a raw deal now that there’s no more Ronaldo shirt sales or PR stuff to piggyback onto) out of him, especially when they’ve made a £67m appreciation profit on him too? That’s doubtful. Ronaldo will sell shirts, there’s no doubt about that – but now that the club is back in half a billion worth of debt, one can only guess at how fragile the foundations to Real Madrid’s financial house-of-cards truly are.

And while Perez throws £138m at his team’s underperformance and assumes the talent will solve the problem – these players, after all, are to be managed by the man who nearly got Tottenham Hotspur relegated this season – Newcastle United trundle on, rudderless and ownerless, and – seemingly – with a collective worth roughly equal to 1.25 Cristiano Ronaldoes. One has to feel sorry for Mike Ashley, the local billionaire supporter who had seen the team drift two and fro under total mismanagement, and taking the lessons of Sky One’s Dream Team far too close to heart in assuming a fan could ably run a challenging Premiership team. That’s not to belittle Ashley’s moneymaking ability – you don’t make your way from nil to £700m without financial ubercompetence – but clearly Ashley had gotten so excited about the notion of buying the team, he’d forgotten how Phil Wallis’s tenure as owner of Harchester United had ended: with Wallis impossibly happy at having given the club away in a lottery to the owner of a lucky season ticket.

While Ashley is deserving of some sympathy, the club itself certainly isn’t. A season in which no less than three messiah managers failed to save the club from terminal decline, and a franchise where a litany of failed Chief Executives and Directors of Football have put their own failed personal stamp on the team, which has constantly slipped in every way since it scraped failure from the jaws of Champions League qualification in 2003. A shambolic corporate management system, consistently backed up by shambolic football management system, and topped off by shambolic footballers. Putting your Champions League fate in the hands of everyon’s favourite centre-back, Titus Bramble? Really? The fall from grace will do Newcastle good; a total overhaul and the abolition of the corrupt culture that left such bureaucracy into simple matters like team selection will do the team the world of good. Frankly, the club’s morale could use the inevitable boost that cantering to Championship victory ought to bring.

And amidst all this, Sky Sports’ endless overvaluation of the English footballing life claims another scalp. If Setanta Sports survives, it’ll be in a much tamer incarnation than it currently exists, with its distinctive bumblebee branding sitting on fewer screens, fewer advertising hoardings, and (hopefully) fewer painful stings with referee’s shirts and net sacks full of rugby balls during every ad break. What sort of world do we live in, where one international TV franchise can only command £20m for a 51% stake, and a mightly, albeit sleeping, football club is only worth £100m, yet a petulant Portuguese wunderkind is an £80m prospect, with another £8m in wages – netto – each year? Ronaldo plus Setanta ought to equal Newcastle United, but the ratio of the Setanta/Ronaldo breakdown needs total redress. One might look on with a wry smile in a few years’ time when Real Madrid enter administration and see a compulsory relegation to the Segunda División, while Newcastle United return energised from a stint in the lower leagues to show themselves just what they can do. Fiorentino Pérez might feel like he has to answer to the supporting body who elected him, but it’s surely more responsible to get the club on better footing than to run it into the ground altogether.

Not, of course, that any of the above will stop us all scrambling for tickets to the Tallaght Stadium in the second week of July, to see Him make his debut for Them against Shamrock Rovers. A salient and timely reminder, perhaps when we need it most, that He is just one man, among many, many others.

Written by Gav

June 13th, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Dragons’ Den and Ireland’s media adolescence

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Again, I have to preface this post with an apology for not keeping this up over the last while – it’s been eleven days since the last post, and it’s mad that during Irish Blog Week of all weeks, I haven’t been able to get one together. Academia, as you can always guess when internet silence is involved, has been horrific, and will continue to be for the next fortnight, so if I stay silent then my advance apologies.

Anyhoo – I didn’t get to see it last night, having instead brought The Brother to see the Kaiser Chiefs last night (his first gig! Awww!), but last night the world was given the first episodes of RTE’s new series, Dragons’ Den. Now, as outlined, I’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, and so I haven’t really been able to gauge public reaction to how the show was received. Nonetheless, it’s one of those occasions we don’t get very often in Ireland: the local premiere of an internationally-sourced franchise. First it was Popstars, and later Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, swiftly followed by a retaliatory Weakest Link. If  memory serves, we were deprived of international formatting until The Apprentice. As if to fulfil scripture, RTE rebound with Dragons’ Den and we quickly get back to wondering when the whole process gets to repeat itself again.

It’s difficult not to accept that one of the driving forces of the increasing homogenisation of the Anglophone world – and beyond, come to think of it – is the cult of superstar TV shows. I don’t mean the Ant & Decs, or the Ryan Seacrest, of the world: I mean the Big Brothers, the Deal or No Deals, and the Pop/American Idols. These are the new Coca-Colas and Microsofts: they are the archetypal global brands of the 21st Century that hold us ransom to their incessant, ominous advertising. They’re nowhere and yet everywhere.

Everywhere except Ireland.

For those of us – and increasingly, in line with the homogenisation, there are more of us – who hold a penchant for international TV, Ireland is a total drought. There are those of us who adore Big Brother, or Pop Idol, or The X-Factor, or Deal or No Deal, but yet wish that Ireland was big and brazen enough not to just be happy it was there, Across The Water. And it is, whether you’ve noticed or not: Ireland’s media still seems to be in adolescence. While Gay Byrne showing the country what a condom looked like was an explosion into the first realms of puberty, and Annie Murphy’s revelation was the gentle coax into sexual activity, Ireland hasn’t really gotten very much farther in its media evolution. The entry of commercial broadcasters is moving to another school; The Dunphy Show vs The Late Late Show is the aggro at the school disco; but Ireland’s media – and certainly its TV – hasn’t grown up yet. We’re happy to let Them Across The Water come up with the money to run Deal or No Deal, or the record deal and bombast to run The X Factor, or to build a bungalow and chuck some cameras into it to run Big Brother. But make them for ourselves? Wisha, poor child, pipe down and do your homework.

There’s no point fooling ourselves. Ireland has only ever imported successful foreign formulas (in the literal sense – we can set up a poxy plagiarism until the cows come home) when there’s money or a threat. Popstars came because Louis Walsh put up the money to run the thing, and some sponsors jumped in to fill the ad breaks. Eircell (God! Remember them? Back when mobile phone numbers starterd with 088 and had six digits?) stuck up the money for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and lo, TV3 needed to stump up for The Weakest Link to keep up with the publically-funded Joneses. Once Eircell begat Vodafone Ireland, who decided that overpriced 13c text messages didn’t need to fund a TV show, WWTBAM disappeared. TV3 didn’t bother commissioning a second series of The Weakest Link either. Funny that. It’s the same thing now: TV3 scored a hit with The Apprentice so within a month of its premiere, RTE scramble to score its opposite number and BBC Two twin. Watch and see how much longer one series lasts without the other. I’ll lay odds on anything more than six months.

What is it that stops RTE or TV3 (though in going for The Apprentice, at least the latter has at least some foresight and maturity) from taking a chance and pouncing on an international hit? Is it the inevitable mumbling from the licence-payer wondering why their money has to fund the launchpad for the next Alexandra Burke? What else can it be? Nobody expects Belgium to make do with the French version of Big Brother, Loft Story – Belgium gets its own BB and gets on with it.

So why shouldn’t a country with enough character and brashness to produce a thousand songwriters and a million poets, a thousand accents and a million moments, be able to get up off its feet, grow up and do big media projects for itself?

I’ll make the offer to Irish TV companies now – secure the rights to Deal or No Deal and I’ll present it for free. Any takers?

Written by Gav

February 20th, 2009 at 7:07 pm