Kicking off at the start of the 2007/08 season, the deal will see Arena cover 46 Premiership games a year with 79 annual Conference matches.
The Irish broadcaster will be Arena's largest client, vindicating its policy of early HD investment. 'Unlike other OB companies which won contracts then built HD trucks to fulfill them, we built speculatively in HD and then found great demand for it,' says managing director Richard Yeowart.
Arena operates two HD trucks, units 7 and 8, and is building two more to identical specifications at a cost of £7.5m. This move takes the firm's overall HD upgrades to £15m. 'With SD investments we'd expect to make our money back over four years,' says Yeowart. 'With HD we're looking at five to six years.'
Unit 9 will be ready this winter, by which time the firm will have doubled staff from 30 to about 60 to cover the additional work.
Setanta Sports, however, will begin broadcast in SD, citing cost as the main reason. 'HD costs 25% to 30% more,' said Andrew Hornett, Setanta executive producer, FA Premier League, adding: 'Ultimately, we want to be able to play back any incident from the perfect angle.'