Virgin Media Ireland has ‘no plans’ to add Sky Sports Tennis channel

Broadcast rights to the US Open and most men’s and women’s tour events have moved to Sky, but Virgin customers paying for Sky Sports won’t have TV access

Tennis fans who subscribe to Virgin Media Ireland’s pay-TV service are set to lose out as the cable provider has no plans to add Sky Sports Tennis to its channel line-up for customers who purchase the Sky Sports add-on.

Sky Sports launched the channel on February 11th, backed by an extensive advertising campaign, but viewers who pay Virgin up to €45 a month for the Sky Sports package will not be able to access it through the electronic programme guides (EPGs) on their television sets.

“Regarding the recent launch of Sky Sports Tennis, Virgin Media do not have any plans to add this specific channel,” Virgin said.

“We continuously review the balance between the limited available space for additional channels and content on our EPG and the best possible value within the packages our customers enjoy. We will continue to explore any new opportunities and offerings to deliver exciting content and channels to our television customer base.”


Virgin Media UK, which is part of the same company as Virgin Media Ireland, has added the channel, however.

Sky holds the broadcast rights to the US Open, one of tennis’s four Grand Slam events, in the UK and the Republic, meaning Virgin customers here will now have limited access to this tournament next autumn.

In January, Sky also took over the rights to almost all the events on the main ATP (men’s) and WTA (women’s) tours, inheriting them from Amazon’s streaming service Prime Video, which opted not to extend its deals.

Sky initially shared coverage between Sky Sports Arena and Sky Sports Main Event, but on February 11th it moved all the Sky Sports Arena coverage to the new channel, fronted by Gigi Salmon with punditry from Laura Robson, Tim Henman and former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli.

Virgin Media customers can watch the new channel via the Sky Sports app or desktop player, but they cannot view it on their TV sets alongside channels such as Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Golf.

Some tennis remains on Sky Sports Main Event, but only when bigger sports are not on air and viewers may see the coverage interrupted mid-match with the advice that “coverage continues on Sky Sports Tennis”.

For instance, Saturday’s coverage of the final of the WTA 1000 event – the level just below a Grand Slam – in Dubai ended on Sky Sports Main Event to make way for football as finalist Anna Kalinskaya was up a break in the final set. The fightback by eventual champion Jasmine Paolini was only available on Sky’s apps.

The Sky Sports package costs €20 a month for the first 12 months through Virgin, rising to €40 thereafter. This is for standard definition (SD) access. For “super sharp” high definition (HD), customers pay more, with the prices set at €22.50 a month, rising to €45 after the first year.

Virgin’s confirmation that it has no plans to add the new tennis channel for customers with the Sky Sports add-on will disappoint followers of the sport ahead of the key ATP and WTA 1000 event at Indian Wells, sometimes dubbed the “fifth Grand Slam”, which begins next week. This is followed by events at the same level in Miami, Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome between now and mid-May.

Tennis fans were already expressing their frustration on social media about the switch in the rights from Prime Video, which costs as little as €6.99 a month, to Sky Sports.

This is because Sky, as well as being more expensive, did not offer the same degree of multi-court coverage at first, and unless followers of the sport subscribe to Sky Glass, Sky Q or Sky Stream, they will have no playback options. Both are important as tennis is played across time zones, with multiple matches also taking place within the same tournament at the same time.

Eurosport has the rights to two of the Grand Slams, the French Open and January’s Australian Open, while the BBC has the rights to Wimbledon and the preceding grass court events. Tennis watchers in the Republic can purchase multi-court access to Eurosport’s Grand Slams through Discovery Plus, but they likely do not have that option for Wimbledon as the BBC iPlayer is not available here.

Beyond the Grand Slams, men’s tennis is also accessible through a subscription to online service Tennis TV for €16.99 a month, but WTA TV is no longer available.

Virgin Media Ireland has 227,900 video (pay-TV) subscribers, according to the latest quarterly update issued by its owner, John Malone-controlled cable giant Liberty Global. This is down from 260,700 a year earlier and 302,300 two years ago.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics