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Why Munster Rugby Launched Its Own Video Subscription Platform

Why Munster Rugby Launched Its Own Video Subscription Platform
By Donny Mahoney Updated
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Deep in the bowels of Páirc ui Chaoimh, Munster captain Jack O'Donoghue looks into the eyes of teammates.

"That's is one of the most enjoyable games I've ever played. And that atmosphere is incredible. Remember that and cherish that and bring that confidence forward."

O'Donoghue then pauses and says:

'Kiran, in the middle'

Kiran McDonald, the Scottish lock, who'd only joined the club a few weeks previous but was massive in Munster's win that evening, ambles into the team circle and starts off a rousing rendition of 'Stand Up and Fight'.

For any Munster fan who watched that incredible game in the terraces or on the telly, the experience of  Munster's thrilling win over a South Africa XV that night ended when the team disappeared down the tunnel.

But subscribers to the Access Munster platform have access to a richer version of that day's events. The brilliant snippet appears at the end of 'The Journey To Páirc Uí Chaoimh' episode that was uploaded to the Access Munster platform after Munster beat the Springboks last month.

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Enter Access Munster

This season, Munster have taken the intriguing decision of creating their own behind-the-scenes documentary content, which is made available to supporters on a subscription basis.

Since August, Munster have had a video team embedded in the team meeting room, on the training pitch and in the sheds, documenting every aspect of the season.

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Roughly once a week, a new video drops on the Access Munster platform. It could be a glimpse inside the club's High Performance Centre, a travelogue on an away trip or a feature on a player of interest, like Jack Crowley or teenager Ruádhan Quinn.

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Access Munster was formally launched in October. Paul Ring, Munster's membership strategist, said the idea was born out of a need for the club to better engage with its supporters, both within the province and beyond.

"As a rugby club you’re always looking for different ways to engage with supporters and engage with that hardcore support that go to every game, and engage with that hardcore support that maybe can’t go to every game.

Fans who are living abroad or who can’t get to Thomond or Musgrave Park. So it’s something that’s been in the pipeline a long time."

There is an endless allure to fly-on-the-wall sports documentaries. Drive To Survive has created a new generation of F1 fans, and will spawn copycat programmes on pro golf and possibly the Premier League and Six Nations. Hard Knocks is rite of passage for NFL fans as the new season ramps up. All Or Nothing has played a fundamental role in changing how Arsenal supporters view their own team and manager.

What's different here is that Munster are not collaborating with a broadcaster, but rather creating the content themselves, for its own fanbase. Ring says there's a team of three videographers employed to capture video and get fans closer to the experience of working with club.

"We want to bring people in and show the team environment in a natural way, so it’s not just kind of staged interviews all the time."

"You’re in with the team, you’re hearing from the coach. You’re seeing what’s going on in the training centre every week, and in the dressing room after the game."

As you'd expect, Graham Rowntree with his gravelly Teeside accent is one of the big stars. His grizzled demeanour is unmistakable on the sidelines. But on Access Munster, you get a glimpse into a softer side of him as he guides a young team through a season that's featured its shares of highs and lows.

Many of us would have seen 18-year-old Ruádhan Quinn's brilliant try in his preseason debut against Gloucester last August. But Access Munster features a brilliant segment of Rowntree doing video analysis in front of the entire squad of both the try and the dramatic celebration that followed. It's a hilarious and intimate look-inside an Irish sporting dressing room that we so rarely see.

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And yes there's a subscription fee  (it costs €4 per month or €42 for a year, although there are discounted rates for MRSC members and ten-year season ticket holders), but such is the breadth of content, that Access Munster feels integral for being a supporter of the Southern province.

It's also a massive step forward in the context of Irish sports documentaries. You can count on one hand the number of Irish fly-on-the wall sports documentaries. Access Munster is showing the way for all elite teams: with greater access comes increased attachment.

The challenge from a content creation side, Ring says, is balancing a supporters desire for all-access with the squad's need for cohesion and a degree of privacy.

You’re trying to strike that balance where you’re giving the supporter real access. And that’s the challenge every week is to live up to this is a subscription product where you're getting something unique.

And also that the team is comfortable with it. And they’ve been brilliant as well. Graham and the coaching team and the players have been very open and they want this to be a success as well.

They want to show supporters what it’s like within the squad too.

This is phase one of Access Munster. But even after one month, this platform has already created a template for other Irish sports team to work off.

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