RTE hit by further blow as TV3 secures live rights to broadcast Cheltenham
RTE has lost out on the rights to broadcast the prestigious Cheltenham festival - the race meeting loved by Irish fans and punters - as well as other top races to TV3.
"Obviously we're disappointed to lose the rights, but frankly the requirement to do the number of days of UK racing that were being asked was more than RTE could square away," the station's group head of sport Ryle Nugent said.
TV3 announced it had secured agreement with Racecourse Media Group (RMG) to broadcast 50 days of UK horse racing in a four-year deal.
This included the exclusive rights for the private broadcaster to show the Cheltenham Festival, the Grand National, Epsom and Royal Ascot.
A delighted TV3 group director of broadcasting, Niall Cogley, said the race meetings were "important milestones" in the Irish sporting calendar.
"TV3 is delighted to be working with this fantastic racing portfolio," he said.
"Cheltenham and Aintree are hugely important in the Irish sporting calendar every year, but this new agreement represents so much more as it spans some of the most important international racing fixtures in the world with a wonderful mix of flat and national hunt festivals."
The broadcaster said the events would be shown across its TV3 and 3e channels.
For RTE it represents the loss of another major sporting event.
It has already lost the rights to broadcast the Six Nations rugby tournament from 2018 - also to TV3.
The rights for the 50 days of horse racing are bundled together for the first time by RMG, meaning the successful bidder had to devote significant broadcast space for the coverage.
It is understood RTE chiefs felt they would not be able to justify dedicating such an amount of time to showing UK racing. Mr Nugent also said that no advertising was sold on the back of the presumption the broadcaster would be showing Cheltenham in March.
"We would never make an assumption on sports rights," he said.
Meanwhile, broadcaster Tracy Piggott, who covers horse racing for RTE, said it was just "the way things are".