SKY unwrapped and presented their summer’s GAA package in Croke Park yesterday, repeatedly promising “better insight” and “deep analysis” in their maiden season broadcasting gaelic games.
In a slightly overwrought launch ceremony, where Sky’s presenting and analysis team were unveiled amid wholly unnecessary levels of attempted secrecy, Sky’s Director of Production Steve Smith pledged that the pay TV company would “marry the polished technology that you see on Sky Sports along with the expert analysts that we have employed.”
Specifics, however, were thin on the ground. And Sky’s opening live broadcast on June 7th from Nowlan Park for the Leinster SHC clash between Kilkenny and Offaly will be the first real insight into how they will package their GAA coverage and what features contained therein.
Although it appears that former the Ireland Rugby League and Union player Brian Carney’s selection as one of two presenters (Rachel Wyse being the other) was at least partly based on his familiarity with some of Sky’s analysis technology.
“We don’t want to have a situation where the analysts are concentrating on technology more than what they are saying,” Smith outlined.
“So we have given them an opportunity and one of the reasons why we are bringing Brian into the team is that he has worked with a lot of the technology we will be looking to employ within the GAA. He will be able to drive that in the early period.”
Certainly, Sky were keen yesterday to project a message that their coverage will be thick on in-depth analysis.
“It is about bringing better insight into what I would describe as the modern game from the discussions that I have had,” explained Smith who revealed that he had met with Bernard Brogan last week to discuss aspects of Sky’s programming, although he has yet to meet the GPA to over the issue of player co-operation.
“What we’ll be trying to bring week in week out is that understanding of the tactics, that understanding of the players. Understanding how the managers are working and reacting.”
Smith stressed that Sky would not “set out with the intention to be deliberately different” from existing or previous gaelic games coverage elswhere, rather “we have to be true to the values of Sky Sports that we apply across all of our sports.”
They did, however, roll out an analysis team featuring Peter Canavan, Paul Earley, Nicky English and Jamesie O’Connor, all of whom featured regularly on TV3’s coverage of the past three years while both of Sky’s summer commentators, Dave McIntyre and Mike Finnerty, also worked with the independent broadcaster.
Despite these names all being touted in various reports over the past number of days, reporters attending yesterday’s launch were housed in a holding’ room with blacked out windows in order that they not see the Sky team getting pictures taken below on the Croke Park pitch.
Then, for no reason immediately apparent, analysts were brought to another room for a 15 minute break’’ after the conclusion of formalities before interviews were conducted.
It is likely, it seems that more analysts will be added as summer goes on.
Each of Sky’s 20 live games (14 of them exclusive) will hosted by both Carney and Wyse based in studios at each ground.
Programmes will comprise roughly three hours and Smith explained that the proportions of pre and post game content could be varied in accordance with viewing figures.In accepting that some opposition to Sky’s arrival to GAA broadcasting was inevitable, Smith compared it to the beginning of their coverage of cricket in 2005.
“Lots of questions were asked about what would happen to the state of cricket and how Sky would take that on,” he recalled.”Channel 4 had award winning coverage at the time. “What we did was we had an established stable of cricket talent so we had experience of broadcasting but it brought a bigger spotlight to what we were doing.
“The amount of factors that are going on in the game,” Smith continued, “it lends itself to deep analysis and deep thought as to what’s going on out there.
“Once we start going with this, it will just be the tip of the iceberg and we can really get into it.”
“What’s clear to me is the ability for analysis and insight is massive,” he concluded.
“We would like to get to is a place where we’re getting better insight from the players as well as our analysts to give the fans a greater understanding of what’s going on, explaining why things are happening rather than going down the route of clichés about character, shall we say.”