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Review: Irish TV in 2015

UPC have bought TV3 for €80m. A massive drop from the price paid by Doughty Hanson in 2006. Equity Portfoilio company Doughty Hanson bought the channel for €265m from then owners Canwest and ITV. This marks a 70% drop in the vaulation of the company in the last 9 years. We mark the sale of TV3 with a review of Irish TV in 2015.

The media have ignored the failures of all of the Irish broadcasters to provide a comprehensive and worthwhile services to their viewers. Yes the development of On-Demand services over the last 10 years is not helping the broadcasting industry and as time goes on the broadcasting industry is set to die. This alone doesn't explain the massive drop in audiences for Irish TV broadcasters, who have lost 40% of their audience since 2006.

Already into the sixth month of the year and in reality none of the TV channels have seen any real growth. TV3's loss of the soaps has led to them seeing a drop of 40% from 2014. RTÉ One has dropped to below 18% far from the 25% share it once had, while its sister channel RTÉ2 was lucky to get 6% of the audience in May, it dropped below 5% for the first time in April. UTV has seen gains but only at the expense of other Irish TV channels, UTV's audience had dropped from 10% in 2001 to just 3% in 2014, you can see why they were interested in returning to the Irish market, and certainly a newish service was better move than buy debt ridden TV3 (something rarely spoken about in the press). Meanwhile in May TG4 saw its lowest audience in 10 years with just 1.5%, a far cry from it's 3% share in 2006. Setanta gets just 0.3% share of the audience this compares with 1.9% achieved by Sky Sports News (Ireland's most watched pay TV service).

So what's wrong?

Well it’s clear none of the Irish TV broadcasters know their audience. Each have their own problems and often it seems as if they are waiting for the next big event coming to them.

TV3's decision to extend Ireland AM to a 7 day week seems a strange move. Really what's the highest level of audience that these shows can achieve on a Saturday and Sunday morning? 45,000 viewers? This compares to 400,000 viewers TV3 had for Coronation Street. Indeed the same type of show (The Seven O'Clock Show) only achieves 45,000 viewers in prime time. These are the same old type of in studio programming that TV3 churn out every day of the week, it provides little risk and absolutely no access to new talent for Audiences. TV3 in its recent upfronts announced 2 possible shows, as they did with Blind Date and Gogglebox this time last year.

RTÉ One's has become Repeat Television Éireann with more than 5 of its top twenty programmes being repeats. Repeats aren't a bad thing but RTÉ One fails to understand that audiences won't stay for lifestyle repeats. RTÉ rarely if ever repeat Drama, a fairly repeatable type of programme. How many times have you seen Batchelor's Walk repeated on RTÉ, I'd say you'd be lucky to be able to say twice. Name any drama produced in the last 10 years that has been repeated as many times as Super Gardens. RTÉ One has some great imports but unfortunately gets them too late or just won't air them in prime time, take for example the excellent BBC drama Silk.

RTÉ2 has lost sport. More competition and the scramble for live sporting events has impacted RTÉ2. TV3, Setanta, TG4 and Sky are all snapping up sporting rights. This coupled with the entry of EuroSport will make for interesting times for RTÉ2. Outside of sport RTÉ2's home produced programming consists mainly of copy-cat BBC Three programming. Lifestyle reality documentaries are on RTÉ2 ad-nauseam, sometime I wonder if they are different programmes or just one long running series. Repeats of Friends in prime time is just devastating the channel, with the repeats not even reaching 40,000 per night. Lack of Irish programming and lack of variety is killing RTÉ2. Though this fails to mention the problems that face TRTÉ the children's strand on the channel, which needs a major overhaul.

UTV Ireland has borne the brunt of the media's attention. Its aim to be the most watched channel seems to be falling flat but in reality that was never going to be the case, even as UTV proper UTV only ever had 10% of the audience far below even the current share for RTÉ One. UTV Ireland's failure is not its older programmes from ITV but its access to newer ITV programmes and its failure to explain these issues to its audience. This isn't just an issue for UTV but for all TV channels. Why does it take so long for new episode of imports to appear on TV in Ireland? Simply the contracts that have been signed with the main broadcasters in the US and in the UK can put a hold of up to a year and a half on some programmes, in an era of on-demand this type of contract with the distributors will have to change or the contract will be become devalued.

TG4 and Setanta Sports are smaller niche channels. TG4's failure to launch new services and to attract an online audiences will be a burden for the Irish Language channel, though it consistently provides strong alternative productions to the all too earnest "big 4". Setanta Sports is lucky to have BT Sport, considering many of its own sporting events are readily available on other free services such as the BBC, RTÉ and TV3.

If any of the channels are to survive they must provide a good service to their audience, the lack of growth is a worrying issue for Irish productions and for Irish jobs. Advertising revenue is down but so too are audience levels meaning in percentage terms more money is leaving the country to opt-out advertisers than 10 years ago. It is all too disappointing to continually see all of the channels courting advertisers rather than their audience.