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A Lesson in Confusing your Audience by UTV and TV3

UTV Ireland is set to start broadcasting in 2015. In August UTV Ireland set about allaying any fears that the advertisers may have about their content since the announcement that they bought Coronation Street and Emmerdale last November. The channel fleshed out its package of programming from ITV Studios, while also announcing two new presenters for the channel. Alison Comyn launched the channels meet and greet event in Dublin City. A slate of ITV programmes were announced such as Doc Martin, Prime Suspect and Mr. Selfridge. The big announcement that Pat Kenny would revive his TV career in early 2015 on UTV Ireland was left to the end. But confusing messages are being made to Ireland's TV audiences.

While Pat Kenny is a surprise announcement, the addition of Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton on UTV Ireland will be a surprise to many viewers of TV3. Jonathan Ross has only just in the last year aired on TV3's sister channel 3e, and it is heavily advertised on both TV3 and 3e. Both TV3 channels have been airing Graham Norton for the last number of years, but the loss of this show must perplex many viewers of TV3 considering that TV3 constantly promote the programme.

You would think that in the last year or so TV3 would be inclined to soft sell programmes that are leaving their schedules. But then neither show are leaving TV3 schedules, TV3 will continue to hold those rights until at least mid-2016 along with UTV Ireland.

The range of programmes even just on the small promotional video to promote UTV Ireland to the advertising industry speaks loads of the reliance of TV3 on ITV programming. TV3 have been playing down the loss of Coronation Street and Emmerdale for the past number of months, but if UTV are planning to air a large number of quality ITV programming from Drama to Reality, you can't help but feel that TV3 will be hanging on by a thread come 2015.

It is great that TV3, for the last decade, been able to state that they are the second most watch TV channel in the country and competition to that status should be welcomed. However, ITV programming is leaving a major gap in their schedules come 2015, and TV3 have been unwilling to really promote their own programming over ITV programmes. TV3's obsession with 50% of programming coming from Ireland has been detrimental to quality productions, often when a quality home production does air on the channel it is part funded by the licence fee, with a few exceptions such as Great Irish Bake Off (GIBO) and The Apprentice. The Apprentice suffered in the last number of season in terms of production values but GIBO seems to stand up to its BBC counterpart.

GIBO suffered due to clashing its run with the World Cup. TV3 should have really moved to show it before or after the WC.

UTV Ireland has been largely forgotten about by the audience in general, while TV3 have rushed to spin their story in the newspapers it seems the audience has little appetite about what will happen in 2015, so much so many people I have spoken to had forgotten that UTV Ireland was about to launch. It is great to keep a secret but sometimes a little leakage helps spread the word.

TV3 have also being desperately selling next year to their audience, but little changed in 2014. With two TV services TV3 could have easily tested the waters without sinking the ship. Why keep Jeremy Kyle on TV3? Surely it would be best to move it to 3e with a replacement on TV3. At the same time moving Coronation Street and Emmerdale repeats to the sister channel. This would give some idea as to how Daytime would work for the viewer come 2015. And in fairness to TV3 they do have a strong daytime line up, something that UTV Ireland will struggle with by offering simulcasts of popular daytime shows Lorraine, Loose Women and This Morning. Most of which have been ignored by Irish Broadcasters, instead opting for Irish versions of those programmes.

TV3, like RTÉ TWO, have a major problem. A problem that TV3 sorted with ITV programmes. This is the lack of Irish Programmes between 6pm and 9pm. TV3 generally only have 30 minutes of Xposé between these hours, while RTÉ TWO produce Two Tube. TV3 will effectively have nothing holding up its 6 to 9 schedule and from what's been reported in the Newspapers it seems the only plan has been to extend the number of hours of In house in studio programmes. TV3 will re-launch Xposé as an hour long show follow by a magazine type programme. This means that TV3 will have 5 or 6 magazine type shows running from 7am in the morning, surely the audience will quick tire of this chirpy and cheap style of programming.

This lets down TV3 considerably though UTV Ireland (and UTV proper) don't provide much else in terms of home produced programming. UTV have little in terms of home produced programming in Northern Ireland, even the chirpy and cheap of TV3 must be more welcome than nearly nothing outside News and Current Affairs, with a slight nod to independent productions, on UTV. UTV don't actually come on air until 10am. Good Morning Britain and its sister show Lorraine are on a different service due to licencing laws in the UK, which means ITV broadcast across GB and NI during the morning hours, with regional services taking over at 10 (ITV, UTV and STV).

All of this leaves TV3's new soap in very cold waters, which is unfortunate for viewers who have been crying out for an Irish soap from the channel since it started in 1998. Red Rock will have very little supporting it and that is very dissappointing for the producers who seem to be well poised to take on the soap genre and have a good history of producing quality Irish Drama.

TV3 will announce their schedule next week. And it seems that many of the UTV Ireland shows will also feature at least until 2016.

But the mixed messages from both UTV Ireland and TV3 remain.