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TV3 and UTV Ireland

TV3 and their newly acquired channel and former competitor, UTV Ireland, did exactly as expected over the last 2 years. TV3 lost their core ITV Soap Operas to UTV Ireland, while UTV lost ITV's core reality TV audience to TV3. This caused both channels to split their audience. TV3 averaged 8% of the total market from January 2014 until October 2016, while UTV Ireland retain 6% share of the audience. This compares to 10% for TV3 in the previous two years and 4% for UTV. Little changed in those figures both failed to gain any traction during those 2 years of competition. TV3 like RTÉ2 did well due to sport, having its highest audience share in October 2015 at 13% with September 2015 also getting into double digits. Even with the Euros TV3 failed to reach the double digits in any other month. UTV Ireland remained stagnant for almost the whole 2 years on the air, the exception being November 2015 when it reach a 8% share of the market, something expected to be repeat this month.

The new TV3 group, under Virgin, has many advantages, but I'd be surprised if any of the advantages come to fruition. TV3 held the rights to the ITV programmes for more than a decade and never came close to the kind of audiences that RTÉ One manages to get. This could be largely due to TV3's insistence that its a younger audience than the more mainstream national broadcaster. However, this doesn't really stack up when you consider their line up of both home produced and imported programming. ITV itself in its home country is much more of a mainstream channel, while TV3's morning and afternoon shows are clearly aimed at family and older female audiences.

The question for TV3 and their owners, Virgin Media, is how do they take advantage of their new acquisition. Across the 4 TV3 channels the group will have 17% of the audience (TV3 8%, UTV Ireland 6%, 3e 2.5% and TV3+1 0.5%). It is likely that TV3 will just simply move the ITV Soaps back to TV3, with UTV becoming a home for other ITV programming that do not usually rate well for TV3 (e.g. ITV Dramas and Lifestyle programming). If this is the case UTV Ireland is almost defiantly going to see a drastic drop in audience under TV3. I question if they will retain an audience similar to 3e.

3e has had an easy 2 years, while its audience did fall back it didn't fall back drastically enough and in reality it help TV3 retain 10% of the market. With little in terms of programming of any real substance (even for fans of bad American imports, their are better bad American imports) 3e has held a healthy audience of 2.5%, but really with what? If it is to improve it will need to provide a strong alternative to RTE2 and the vast variety of similar TV channels available.

It will be interesting to see what TV3 axes, TV3 notoriously axed nearly all of Channel 6's home produce programmes in favour of a news service aimed at a younger audience, which was ultimately axed. UTV Ireland's news output is almost definitely to get the axe, which is a real pity since everything about it far out classes TV3 news, from presenting to sets and from reporters to graphics. Will xpose and the pulse both get the axe? It seems likely that The Seven O'Clock Show will move to the 6pm spot currently held by Xpose, will it move to 3e? and will TV3's new News @8 get the axe? According to UTV Ireland one of the reason that they choose not to go for an 8pm news was due to the Thursday night edition of Emmerdale.

I expect that TV3 will not address any of these question adequately and they will see a drop in audience from 16% to 14% as soon as any changes are made. Remember the small changes that both TV3 and UTV Ireland made no real impact. TV3's Seven O'Clock Show didn't grow TV3 audience, it remained at 7%. UTV's move of their news to 5:30 didn't help them either as they continued with 6% share.

This article was written a number of days before TV3's decision to do exactly what has been mentioned above. UTV Ireland is due to be renamed by the end of December