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  • Advertising regulator backs Radio Nova’s “Addicted to Sex on Fire” posters

    August 31, 2012 @ 4:50 pm | by Laura Slattery

    Sex sells is one of the oldest axioms in the book, but should Radio Nova’s “Addicted to Sex on Fire” posters have been placed on billboards located near primary schools? No, says the principal of one Dublin primary school, who along with two other individuals complained to the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland about the ad.

    The poster, which references Kings of Leon’s ubiquitous hit Sex on Fire, was placed on the sides of busses and 48-sheet billboards around Dublin this summer.

    Pinpointing the cheeky comic device of the campaign, one of the complainants observed that the words “on fire” appear in a smaller font than “addicted to sex”, arguing that therefore the content of the ad was unsuitable when placed on a billboard located in “close proximity” to a primary school.

    The ASAI has rejected the complaints. “The Committee did not consider the content of the advertising was likely to result in physical, mental or moral harm to children, nor was the content likely to frighten or disturb them,” it has adjudicated.

    The advertising body also accepted the response of Radio Nova, which said the song, one of the most played tracks on its playlist, was well-known, “mainstream” in fact, having spent a long 42 weeks in the UK chart. (I’ve yet to meet anyone who knows any of the lyrics apart from the “sex on fire” bit.) To the best of their knowledge, the bearded rockers’ crossover hit had never been banned or restricted in any way. “This would suggest that both the authorities and general public felt that the track was acceptable,” it told the ASAI.

    “We pointed out that Sex on Fire had been a very well-known song and that it had been number one in 17 countries,” says Kevin Branigan, Radio Nova’s chief executive. “We hadn’t expected any complaints.”

     Three other ads in the campaign, designed to showcase the classic rock station’s “seriously addictive” slogan, read “Mark, 27. Addicted to Money by Pink Floyd”, “Ciara, 35. Addicted to Whiskey in the Jar”, and Brian, 41. Addicted to Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones”. The ads, which feature “real” Radio Nova listeners, ran in equal rotation and could be seen with equal frequency throughout the city.

    Promising to liaise with its outdoor advertising agency regarding future campaign placements, Radio Nova stressed that it did not choose the particular poster site and were not trying to target schoolchildren. The station, which is celebrating its two-year anniversary, is squarely aimed at 25-44-year-olds – people who are old enough to remember the, gasp, 1990s, or maybe even a time before sex addiction was a thing.

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

    August 22, 2012 @ 7:48 pm | by 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.

  • Operation Transformation at RTÉ might be unavoidable, but slimming down is not going to be pleasant

    March 30, 2012 @ 8:00 am | by Laura Slattery

    Fewer imported programmes, even less sport and constraints on independent commissions – the financial pressures on RTÉ, bubbling beneath the surface throughout recent scandals, will soon be clearly visible on screen, as director general Noel Curran’s blueprint for the future takes “unavoidable” chunks out of programming budgets. Those announced yesterday – a 25 per cent slash in the sports rights budget and a 10 per cent cut in the budget for overseas acquisitions – will not be the last. “Additional target-led reductions” are currently being identified across all divisions: television, radio, news and digital.

    Cuts in “star” salaries dominate the headlines for two reasons: because they bring the saga of RTÉ back to the level of celebrity Schadenfreude; and because six-digit fees to presenters – some of them talented, some of them over-rated, some of them both talented and over-rated – are symbolic of the lunacy of the boom.

    But while it might be entirely proper to target the pay of the highest paid on-camera faces, there’s also off-screen remuneration to think about. As they sit down after Easter to discuss what Curran indicated would be “significant” changes to work practices, the group of unions at RTÉ will presumably be equally interested in hearing about the kind of sacrifices being made by the broadcaster’s boss class.

    In any case, the biggest saving in Curran’s €25 million plan comes from the €15 million expected to be generated by a new voluntary redundancy scheme, which this time around has a more attractive offer for staff who are members of RTÉ’s defined contribution pension scheme. The current redundancy scheme is more attractive for longer-serving employees who have defined benefit pensions. This scheme has been taken up by 170 employees to date and more are scheduled to leave by the summer. But personnel costs at RTÉ, which still employs 1,900 people, continue to account for half of its cost base. It is hoped that at least another 200 employees will drive out the gate.

    Meanwhile, as RTÉ Television’s heads of department prepare to make their case for which programmes should be re-commissioned for the coming seasons and which should be quietly axed, they will do so in an environment where any and all cuts will contribute to plugging RTÉ’s operating deficit, projected to reach €20 million this year. Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte made it clear to the board last month that it cannot simply continue to stay in the red, and so a turbulent 18 months, marked by whispers, goodbye parties and fractured morale, lies ahead.

    It is clear that news and current affairs, though it resides smack in the middle of RTÉ’s “core” public service responsibilities, won’t entirely escape the hurt. The broadcaster currently operates separate Irish language reporting staff for Raidió na Gaeltachta and the Nuacht programmes on its main stations, while TG4 also runs its own news department – some rationalisation is to be expected here and across its entire regional output, though there are promises that output levels will be maintained.

    The impact of shutting down its London office – which has the misfortune from its departing staff’s point of view to double as a prime rental property in pricey Millbank – is yet to be ascertained, though it seems that RTÉ is at least contemplating a future where British affairs are covered out of Dublin or Belfast. Curran will argue that these are “efficiencies” rather than retreats in coverage.

    Arguably, the potential ramifications of cuts in sports rights and imports won’t make a material difference to most viewers. An RTÉ without, say, Champions’ League football matches? Tune into ITV’s coverage or wait for TV3 to snap up the rights. An RTÉ without acquisitions of acclaimed series like Homeland, or indeed not-so-acclaimed series like Pan Am? Watch them on Channel 4 or the BBC or the internet or DVD instead. A schedule more frequently and cleverly filled with repeats? Groansome and convenient in more or less equal measure.

    With the squeeze coming on both its commercial and public sources of funding, RTÉ will want to tick enough boxes on public service output – news, children’s shows, arts and religious affairs programming – even as it strives to keep prized ratings bankers on its schedules. Entertainment formats like The Voice of Ireland and weight-loss reality show Operation Transformation have performed well of late, while both The Late Late Show and The Saturday Night Show boast appealing cost-per-viewer ratios. But maintaining a balance between pays-for-itself programming and mandate-satisfying budget-eaters will not be any easier in an austerity-bound Montrose, while independent commissioning budgets, already dented, are likely to be targeted again.

    One of the problems with cutbacks on the commissioning side is that you can never quite predict where your next hit will come from. And if you commission next to nothing, it will never arrive. RTÉ’s biggest ratings success over the past 12 months has, somewhat unexpectedly, been a sitcom, and an old-fashioned slapstick sitcom at that. Mrs Brown’s Boys, a co-production between BBC Scotland and BocPix in association with RTÉ, comfortably out-rated the Late Late during its second run. Curran will now be hoping that the show’s forthcoming third series is the only painful farce at Montrose between now and the end of 2013.

  • A centenary to remember: Titanic on screen

    January 31, 2012 @ 8:00 am | by Laura Slattery

    Glossing aside for one moment, or indeed forever more, the ever-so-slight contradiction in celebrating a feat of engineering that rather swiftly became a byword for disaster, April 15th marks 100 years since the sinking of the Titanic, and more cash-ins abound than there were passengers on board. From the shipyards of Belfast to the decades of survivors’ guilt that followed, expect the story of this all-too-sinkable ship to make regular appearances on your television and cinema screens this spring. Here are just five of the Titanic-themed offerings sending maritime thrills and chills your way:

    1. Titanic 3D. Jack! Rose! Jack! Rose! You remember this one, from director and Titanic obsessive James Cameron. Travel back in time to 1912 / 1997 to watch a boyish Leonardo di Caprio declare himself “king of the world” in full retro-fitted 3D glory, his arms stretching out into the cinema from the bow of the ship. Marvel as the stern rises in the air and plunges into the ocean, bodies hurtling off the sides and water lapping over the heads of your fellow cinema-goers. And pause to note how Kate Winslet’s survival is indeed a historically accurate reflection of the ship’s “women and children first” policy. It’s due out April 6th… you know you want to.

    2. Titanic: Blood and Steel. Directed by Ciaran Donnelly and filmed in both Dublin and Serbia, this 12-part mini-series sounds like it has the biggest potential tourism “ker-ching” for Belfast. Rather than concentrating on the ill-fated maiden voyage itself, the action starts in 1897, telling the story of the ship’s 15-year construction in Edwardian Belfast. Expect to hear dialogue that goes a bit like this (only more authentically Edwardian)… Harland and Wolff shipyard manager: “But, sir, the ship’s capable of carrying 64 lifeboats!” J Bruce Ismay, White Star Line president: “Bloody hell, that’s a bit pricey. Happily, we’re only legally required to carry a quarter of that amount.”

    3. Titanic. This four-part UK / Canada  / Hungary co-production is scripted by Julian “Downton Abbey” Fellowes, so expect the upstairs-downstairs angle to be propelled to the fore. It boasts an impressive cast, including Toby Jones, David Calder, Lyndsey Marshal, Linus Roache, Geraldine Somerville, James Wilby, Peter Wight, Celia Imrie and Ireland’s own Maria Doyle Kennedy. Due to be simulcast on ITV1 and TV3 on Thursdays starting from April 12th, this really does contain the famous last words “we’ll never need lifeboats for every passenger” – the trailer, which modestly describes the show as “the television event of 2012”, is now on YouTube. Let’s hope it’s more original than its title.

    4. Saving the Titanic. Announced as part of RTÉ’s spring schedule, Saving the Titanic is a drama documentary  focusing on the “engine room heroes” who worked to keep the electric power running as the ship sank – their sacrifice not only kept the lights on, but meant the electric lifeboat winches remained operational, allowing others to survive. The docudrama, co-produced by Ireland’s Tile Films and Germany’s GebruederBeetzFilmproduktion, is based on eye-witness accounts of nine engineers who worked among the coal-fired furnaces and massive dynamos to satisfy the ship’s demand for electricity. It will be shown at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival on February 17th.

    5. Titanic and Me. The BBC’s contribution to the genre, this documentary series is presented by Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman, who aspires to “delve beyond the Hollywood myths and into the lives of the families who struggled with the loss of husbands, wives, sons and daughters”. Given the last surviving passenger of the Titanic died in 2009, testimonies come from descendants “for whom the Titanic is part of family folklore”. Shot in Southhampton and Northern Ireland, the three half-hour episodes have been made for the BBC by Derry-based history specialists 360 Production. What’s Len Goodman got to do with all of this? Well, he used to be a welder at Harland and Wolff – so there.

    And if all of these tragic delights leave you iceberg-cold, well there’s always Bee Gee Robin Gibb’s classical music tribute, Titanic Requiem.

  • Television in Ireland: the next 50 years revealed

    December 31, 2011 @ 11:36 am | by Laura Slattery

    Even if you don’t own a television, you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot about the 50th anniversary of television in Ireland over the next few days. It will go something like this: Seán Lemass… well Holy God… one for everyone in the audience… okey-doke… #JeanByrne. But enough of all this rampant nostalgia: what about the next 50 years? Here’s a run-down of events as they are likely to happen.

    2012: Analogue television is switched off, leaving snowy screens in households where the grand-kids forgot to bring round a Saorview set-top box. Audience ratings for Nationwide plummet.

    2013: Eamon Ryan wins the first ever series of Celebrity Mastermind and uses the glory of victory to relaunch the Green Party. The format is not renewed.

    2014: The Late Late Show viewer ratings are decimated as TV3 schedule a Friday night Irish version of Total Wipeout, hosted by Georgia Salpa.

    2016: RTÉ drops the Angelus and attempts to placate furious fans of middle-distance stares by making it available as an app for owners of Smart TVs.

    2017: There’s relief for Dave Fanning as he finally gets to the end of a question he started asking Michael Stipe on 2TV in 1995.

    2020: A TV3 documentary on breastfeeding falls foul of Apple TV’s terms and conditions on pornography and is removed from the TV3 channel app, sparking a public outcry. TV3 successfully appeals the decision. A publicity stunt is suspected.

    2021: After a landslide “yes” vote in that year’s referendum, it becomes a criminal offence to quote from a Financial Regulator TV ad that ran during the Noughties.

    2023: The labour market is inundated with unfeasibly chirpy continuity announcers who are laid off en masse after Irish media companies declare that no one watches “linear” television anymore.

    2027: Rigorous consumer research reveals that the phrase “roll it there, Róisín” has faded from the collective folk memory, although nursing homes are full of people still banging on about someone called Sally O’Brien.

    2029: As property prices make a return to “2007 levels”, RTÉ sells Montrose. The demolition goes smoothly, aside from a last minute protest by Charlie Bird. Within months, there is no evidence that RTÉ was ever located there, although the new owners confess to being spooked by the occasional sight of a flying vehicle later identified as the Wanderly Wagon.

    2032: After one cutback in the newsroom budget too many, Bryan Dobson has a “Network” moment. He is replaced by Craig Doyle.

    2036: TV3 admits it’s not the “real” Vincent Browne who hosts its late-night current affairs show, but a digitally generated avatar programmed to raise its voice in response to a fixed list of trigger words. The channel’s press office declines to specify when exactly the switch was made.

    2043: The analogue-era game-show Where in the World is relaunched as Where in the Solar System as the format is updated for the age of cheap commercial space travel. The losers are sent on a one-way trip to ex-planet Pluto.

    2045: Shortly after Christmas, RTÉ shows the vintage film 2046 as its Midweek Movie, even though the title refers to a hotel room number and not a calendar year.

    2061: As a series of virtual-reality riots tear a rip in the space-time continuum on the eve of Irish television’s centenary, the RTÉ News Channel is criticised for failing to provide live coverage of Ireland’s descent into a black hole. It opts instead to stick with a repeat of Reeling in the Years.

  • Bunga bunga cha cha cha: the BBC vs Silvio Berlusconi

    September 21, 2011 @ 8:00 am | by Laura Slattery

    “Standard & Poor’s declassa l’Italia,” read the headline for Italian daily Il Tempo, but for diplomacy-eschewing Silvio Berlusconi, there’s been even more bad news this week. He’s being sued by the BBC for making what The Daily Mail has dubbed a “porno” version of Strictly Come Dancing. (I’ve not seen it myself.) The Berlusconi-owned broadcaster Mediaset stands accused of abusing the copyright of BBC Worldwide’s prized format export, in the process of which it has replaced its nudge-nudge-wink-wink subtext with a level of obvious bunga-bunga-ness that would make a Pussycat Doll blush, never mind Head Judge Len.

    Presumably, this is so the copycat show, Baila!, lives up to the standards of Berlusconi’s notorious sex parties, where the dancing was apparently of the pole and not the Paso Doble variety – though, funnily enough, when it came to matching up partners, similar care and attention was paid to the issue of compatible heights. Italy’s own Vincent Simone slipping a few cheeky ganchos into an Argentine tango with Edwina Currie just isn’t the kind of thing that cuts it for screen sizzle on Mediaset’s Canale 5 station. Who’d have thought?

    BBC Worldwide licensed the Italian rights to Dancing with the Stars (as it’s known internationally) to the public broadcaster Rai six years ago as part of its multimillion-earning cunning plan to teach the world how to turn learning the quickstep into a “journey”. Sold to 35 countries, it’s one of the most successful reality television formats in the tear-splattered history of reality television. Now Rai’s lawyers are, ahem, arm in arm with BBC Worldwide in its bid to slap down the alleged copyright infringement by Mediaset.

    The Berlusconi company, meanwhile, says that Baila! is based on an entirely different South American format called Bailando Por Un Sueno or Dancing for a Dream, created by Televisa Mexico. A version of this show broadcast in Argentina featured a topless model simulating sex during one of the dances – or so I’ve read. (I’ve not seen it myself.) It really does sound like it’s just one octogenarian, a wardrobe rail of sparkly body stockings and any number of Craig Revel-Horwood panto-snarls away from the real deal.

    In any case, I’m still too traumatised by that footage of Berlusconi and the traffic warden to even contemplate what his broadcasting executives might do with the rumba, so more power to the BBC and Rai. By rights, however, the Rome court with which they’ve lodged legal papers should be aware that there is really only one fair way to settle this dispute – a dance-off between Silvio and David Cameron. With Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, Barack Obama – and Arlene Phillips – as the judges, obviously.

  • Punky, a cartoon heroine for the Saorview age

    April 13, 2011 @ 12:58 pm | by Laura Slattery
    Meet Punky. She has Down syndrome, and she’s the eponymous star of a new animated series that will be broadcast weekdays on RTÉjr from May 3rd. The producers, Monster Animation & Design, say Punky - on the verge of becoming the latest success story for Irish animation – is the first ever animated TV series where the lead character has Down syndrome.

    The character of Punky, created by the writer Lindsay Jane Sedgwick, is voiced by Aimee Richardson, who herself has Down syndrome and Down Syndrome Ireland reviewed material during production of the series. “It’s basically a look at everyday life from Punky’s perspective. It’s her daily routine,” says Monster’s Gerard O’Rourke. “She lives in the moment.”

    Punky, a new series produced by Irish animation company Monster

    Monster, which has a track record in animated kids’ TV shows through Ballybraddan and Fluffy Gardens, was approached to produce the series by the Irish Film Board, which had granted development money to Sedgwick. RTÉ was keen on the project and commissioned it, while Monster also secured licence fee funding from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Sound & Vision Fund.

    After several phases of development, it was decided that Punky would be aimed at the discerning preschool audience. The 20 episodes, each seven minutes long, will be broadcast twice a day on the RTÉjr programming block of RTÉ 2, before finding another home later in the summer on the dedicated RTÉjr channel on Saorview, RTÉ’s free-to-air digital terrestrial television (DTT) service. 

    “To have a dedicated children’s channel is an amazing thing,” says O’Rourke, as RTÉ 2 pushes RTÉjr off the air whenever the Olympics or the European Championships or the World Cup is on – “anything that is more important than children’s programmes basically and the children’s programmes get bumped.” 

    RTÉ 2 also attempts the tricky task of catering for kids ranging in age from two to 15, which means that during school holidays, the preschool programmes often give way. The RTÉjr Saorview channel will mean there is a home purely for younger kids’ programming, while the older kids’ shows (styled TRTÉ) remain on RTÉ 2. 

    “By having these long schedules, RTÉ is obviously going to need more content. They can acquire programming, but the onus will be on them to support more home-produced content,” says O’Rourke. “So [DTT] is for us very much something that will drive our business over the next few years.” 

    Much of this optimism depends, however, on the frequency with which RTÉjr chooses to repeat programming blocks. Early reports about the channel suggested it would run the kids’ shows on a tight loop rather than making a major extension to its schedule of new programming. But if the broadcaster does find the resources to avoid a parent-torturing level of repeats, it will find a home animation industry with the talent to produce low-cost original content – content that can become cultural exports via industry sales events like Mipcom Junior at Cannes and New York’s Kidscreen Summit. 

    Monster has already had export success with Fluffy Gardens, which it presold to UK and Australian broadcasters. It then brought in a distribution partner, Target Entertainment, which put up the finance for sales into other territories. “Fluffy Gardens has reached 100 countries now,” says O’Rourke. Monster is close to securing international presales for Punky, talking to broadcasters in Australia and Germany, while the series is currently being market-tested in the UK by CBeebies. The initial feedback has been “very positive”, he says. 

    Punky is described as a happy girl who loves music, dancing, playing with her big brother, Con, and jumping around with her dog, Rufus. She enjoys helping around the house and trying to make Cranky, her grandmother, a little less cranky. 

    “We don’t overly emphasise that she has Down syndrome. She tells you at the start of each episode that she has it and as she’s voiced by Aimee, she sounds like she has Down syndrome,” O’Rourke says. Her family sometimes has to stop everything and pull together to help her cope with unanticipated disruptions to her daily routine. “But she gets things done as well,” he explains. 

    Though the series deals with themes of difference, diversity and the problem-solving issues specific to people with Down syndrome, O’Rourke says he hopes Punky doesn’t “get pigeonholed” as an educational programme. “We hope that it will be as mainstream as Peppa Pig or Dora.”

  • Will Sky Atlantic be a dealbreaker for UPC customers?

    January 7, 2011 @ 7:30 am | by Laura Slattery

    It sounds like an airline chasing lost business class custom, but anyone who has spotted the prominent and kind of thrilling advertising campaign for Sky Atlantic will be under no illusions. Against a night-time New York skyline, the billboards declare “let the stories begin”.

    On February 1st, the Sky Atlantic channel will launch with the pilot of HBO’s Prohibition-era gangsterfest Boardwalk Empire, starring Steve Buscemi and directed by Martin Scorsese. Other programming rights seized by the new Murdoch revenue vehicle include Treme (the New Orleans-based series by David “The Wire” Simon), the forthcoming fifth series of Mad Men and the convoluted-sounding home-commissioned six-parter Hit and Miss, produced by Paul Abbott.

    The pedigree of the line up and initial feedback on the shows that have already aired in the US suggests that Sky Atlantic will be more hit than miss – or, as the billboard tagline phrases it, the channel will “bring iconic television to Ireland”. This suggests, of course, that without the thoughtful, altruistic intervention of subscriber-seeking BSkyB, Irish viewers would never get the opportunity to lay eyes on the best drama and comedy that HBO, Showtime and AMC have to offer, rather than enduring the usual process whereby we twitch a bit, envious of our American cousins, until they eventually end up on free-to-air channels at a later than necessary hour.

    Sky Atlantic will be free to all Sky subscribers until the end of August, at which point the channel will be part of the Variety Pack, a €2 per month add-on to the basic €23 per month package. (For new sightings of Jon Hamm, Mad Men‘s Don Draper, in glorious high definition, you will need to pay €15 extra a month for the HD Pack.) That’s good news for Sky’s 600,000-plus Irish subscribers, assuming they haven’t just signed on purely to be amused by Jeff Stelling and his posse of shouty pitchside reporters.

    Access to Sky Atlantic for the 375,000 digital television subscribers to UPC Ireland, on the other hand, has yet to be confirmed. Indeed, when I contacted UPC earlier this week, its product team said this: “It is under review with the channel provider. Until discussions conclude, we’re not in a position to comment any further.”

    Aaagghhh. (You can guess which company has my custom.)  A last minute carriage deal is still possible and far from unprecedented. On the other hand, Sky could choose to delay or restrict access to other pay-TV providers in order to further differentiate its offering, in much the same way as it does with the HD versions of its sports channels. In any case, even “iconic” dramas are unlikely, by themselves, to spark an exodus from UPC to Sky, if only because drama fans looking to score cool points by watching them before everyone else will already be in the habit of downloading the shows as soon as they are broadcast in the US. Almost everyone else who cares will reluctantly wait for the box set – an attitude that doesn’t tend to work so well when it comes to live football.

    What Sky Atlantic does do, however, is give BSkyB’s pay TV products a talking point; a hook for its flashy ad campaign, which may help it grab any growth in the market before UPC’s Borg-like contact centres can get to it. UPC’s approach to adding customers – and it is still adding them – seems to largely eschew exclusive content in favour of sucking people in under their bundling deals: buy this 100 MB broadband, for which we’ve gone to all the trouble of digging holes in the ground, and take our phone and Sky-facsimile television products while you’re at it.

    I won’t leave UPC for Sky if it can’t negotiate a deal on Sky Atlantic, but that feeling of missing out on a rich cultural glut will leave me hostile – partly towards UPC, but mostly towards BSkyB for causing all the grief in the first place. Personally, I’ve always quite liked watching Mad Men on elegant, commercial-free BBC 4. Sky’s world domination plans have scuppered that.

  • Noel Curran a shoo-in for Montrose, says Paddy Power

    November 8, 2010 @ 12:13 pm | by Laura Slattery

    Paddy Power has suspended betting on the identity of the next director general of RTÉ, following an apparent surge of bets taking a not-so-risky punt on Noel Curran for the top job. Paddy Power says that several bets were placed at odds of 5/1 this morning on the ex-managing director of RTÉ television following a similar career path to the retiring director general, Cathal Goan (who also previously held the television MD job).

    Having narrowed the odds to 1/3 favourite, Paddy Power has been “forced to suspend all betting”, which raises the question as to who exactly, other than industry insiders, bets on the rearranging of executive deckchairs in Ireland’s semi-states in the first place. According to Paddy Power’s Ken Robertson “the cat is well and truly out of the bag”, that Curran, a former business journalist who left his post as television MD in March to pursue private sector interests, is to make a return to Montrose faster than you can say “can you turn on TV3, I want to watch Take Me Out”.

    Senior RTÉ executives Clare Duignan (radio) and Conor Hayes (finance) recently ruled themselves out of the running for the position, which last time round paid a salary of €326,000 a year. Curran’s CV, meanwhile, includes the launch of the Prime Time Investigates strand and executive producing of the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest. Public service broadcasting at its most eclectic, then.

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