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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: August 22, 2012 @ 7:48 pm

    Rose of Tralee wins fewer hearts in Ireland’s living rooms

    Laura Slattery

    Was this year’s Rose of Tralee the least watched in the history of its televising? According to RTÉ, it was “a big hit with viewers”, but the TAM Ireland ratings reveal that 16 years after Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan parodied the contest in Father Ted, the show’s popularity is on the wane. The final night of the contest, in which the winner is “crowned”, attracted the lowest television audience for at least eight years.

    An average of 688,500 viewers tuned into the final on Tuesday, with the show garnering the eyeballs of 45 per cent of the total number of people watching television at the time. This is still a grand old audience for a midweek summer night. But to put it in context, it’s only around 100,000 more than the typical viewership of an episode of weight loss lifestyle show Operation Transformation, which, unlike the Kerry hat-and-sash fest, is capable of being genuinely motivational without a surfeit of cringe.

    More pertinently, this year’s Rose of Tralee television audience compares unfavourably with the show’s undoubted ratings success, even in recent years. Average ratings reached 916,000 in 2010 (a 54 per cent share) and 829,000 in 2011 (a 53 per cent share). Looking at the figures reported in RTÉ’s annual reports from 2005 onwards, only 2008 was anywhere near as low, with 696,000 viewers and a 47 per cent share – this was the only other time during the period that the audience share dipped below 50 per cent. The show still managed to scrape into Ireland’s top 10 most watched programmes that year, however, coming joint eighth. It may not make the cut this time around.

    Perhaps 2012, like 2008, is just a blip – the result of warm weather, or the fact Celtic was playing in a Champions League qualifier over on TV3. Maybe 2013 will see ratings inexorably improve, as new executive producers are shipped in to “reinvent” the not-a-beauty-pageant personality pageant. Roses could be ordered to relay anecdotes from a Graham Norton-style red chair, while escorts could be required to pass a Ryan Gosling lookalike test before they’re allowed claim the honour of looking sheepish for Ireland. Maybe a televised game of Prince Harry-style strip billiards would help.

    But with any luck, the show will just slowly become more and more irrelevant, to the point that even “ironic” watching will eventually taper off. In the meantime, I’m going to take pleasure in the fact that more people (1.1 million, or 747,000 across the full coverage) watched Katie Taylor punch her way to an Olympic gold medal on a Thursday afternoon. This is 2012, and there are plenty of ways for lovely girls to compete with each other. Loveliness really shouldn’t be one of them.

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