Eir blasts Virgin for pulling sports channels prior to Champions League game
Eir Sport, the Irish telecoms operator, has hit out at Virgin Media Ireland, an arm of the UK-based cable operator, after it abruptly pulled its sports content from the service yesterday amid a contractual dispute.
The two parties signed a collaborative agreement last year to carry each other's sports content packages as part of a multi-million euro annual deal but Virgin pulled its channels from Eir just hours before it was due to air the quarter-final match between Germany’s RB Leipzig and Spain’s Atletico Madrid in European soccer’s Uefa Champions League last night.
As a result, Eir subscribers were unable to watch Leipzig’s 2-1 win.
Virgin said it had suspended its channels on the service “because Eir has failed to pay the contracted distribution licence fee.”
Eir today refuted this claim and blasted the cable operator for failing to accept new terms to reflect the reduction in live sports content on its platform due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, Eir said: “In common with other live entertainment businesses operating through this pandemic, Eir Sports can only pay for the sports events that actually take place.
“We have consistently offered fair terms to each of our live sports content providers to reflect the reduced timetable, however, Virgin Media has not agreed to updated terms and has taken the unreasonable step of unilaterally withholding their feed from Virgin Media Sports viewers on the Eir network.”
It is believed that the dispute between Eir and Virgin had been brewing for several weeks, which led to the latter taking drastic action.
As part of the tie-up, Eir and Virgin were offering the full complement of sports channels on their platforms in Ireland, meaning customers only required one subscription.
As a result, Virgin customers were able to watch Eir’s coverage of the Rugby World Cup last year, and Eir customers had access to games in the Champions League and secondary Europa League via Virgin channels this season.
Up until the end of the 2018-19 season, Eir viewers had watched Champions League action free of charge through a BT Sport option provided as part of a package for Eir broadband customers, but that agreement ended last summer as rival pay-TV operator Sky started to distribute BT Sport throughout Ireland.