Virgin Media has no regrets over dropping "niche" eir Sport

CEO Tony Hanway says BT Sport and old Setanta channels were never "an integral part" of their package...

Virgin Media has no regrets over dropping "niche" eir Sport

The Virgin Media launch in the RDS in Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

Virgin Media Ireland has defended its decision to no longer carry eir Sport (formerly Setanta Sports) and BT Sport channels for 2017.

Tony Hanway, who heads up the company, believes it made "the right call" in the stand-off between Virgin and Eir over the cost of carrying the newly-branded eir Sport channels.

Hanway said:

"We weren't going to pay more for less. eir Sport is not an integral part of Virgin Media's offering. It never was and it never will be."

While the decision means Virgin subscribers no longer have access to the eir channels from this month and will miss out on events such as Manchester United's Europa League games, Hanway argued that there has only been "a handful" of cancellations and that the move has not had a "widespread impact" on its customer base.

Hanway pointed to the low viewing figures for Liverpool's EL quarter final clash with Borussia Dortmund last season as evidence that the demand isn't there - only around 10,000 viewers tuned in for that.

"The Europa League and a lot of the other content eir Sport has are niche,” he continued.

“While that is important to small subsets of customers, in the greater scheme of things, most people will always plump for faster broadband and the majority of decent premium sports channels at the right price.”

However, Hanway wanted to avoid a "slagging match" with eir:

"We don’t want to disparage eir. We certainly won't be going out there putting their name on our advertisements. That’s the lowest common denominator in marketing.”

A new channel, Sky Sports Mix, will be added to the Virgin on August 24th.

Hanway also said Virgin has no current plans for further television acquisitions following recent takeovers of TV3 and UTV Ireland.

“There’s nothing in the pipeline,” he said. “We only acquired TV3 before Christmas last year and with UTV Ireland, we probably have enough on our hands in terms of TV.

"So we definitely don't have anything planned. That said, we’re always in the market for good assets that add value to our portfolio.”