Kenny returns to television with new UTV Ireland show

Programme is ‘a blank canvas’, says ex-RTÉ presenter

 Pat Kenny at the Marker Hotel, Grand Canal Square for the announcement that he will host a new television show on UTV Ireland.   Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Pat Kenny at the Marker Hotel, Grand Canal Square for the announcement that he will host a new television show on UTV Ireland. Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 15:38

Pat Kenny will host a new television show on UTV Ireland, the station due to launch on January 5th. Mr Kenny said “the timing was absolutely perfect for me to get back into television”.

The broadcaster, who defected from RTÉ to join Newstalk last year, said he was working from “a blank canvas” from which he would make “compelling and entertaining” shows for viewers. “Passion is very much at the centre of my rationale for being here,” Mr Kenny said at a UTV Ireland briefing in Dublin today.

Mary Curtis, the head of the channel, said the programme would be made by an independent production company, and that the “high-value” commission would be put out to tender in the coming weeks.

The show will “most likely” be a weekly programme, Ms Curtis added, while Michael Wilson, the managing director of UTV Television, said UTV wanted to “play to his strengths” as a presenter. “We are working on formats with him,” Mr Wilson said.

An entertainment, chat or variety format would have a commercial advantage for UTV over a programme that is strictly current affairs, because it would allow UTV Ireland to open Mr Kenny’s show up to sponsorship. Television news and current affairs programmes cannot be sponsored under Broadcasting Authority of Ireland rules.

Mr Kenny told reporters, advertising agencies and industry figures that the timing felt right for him to take on a new challenge after a year in which he had “bedded in” his Newstalk radio show.

The presenter, who was the highest paid broadcaster in RTÉ before he left the organisation, has signed a contract with UTV Ireland to make a certain number of hours of programming next year.

The hiring of Mr Kenny was unveiled by UTV Media group chief executive John McCann, who described it as “a very important piece of the jigsaw”.

Ms Curtis, a former RTÉ executive, handled the negotiations to sign Mr Kenny, who said trust was a “given” between them.

Belfast-based UTV Media plc announced last November that it planned to launch a television channel aimed at viewers in the Republic of Ireland.

Its agreement with ITV Studios Global Entertainment gives the channel access to programming made by ITV Studios for broadcast on the ITV main channel in the UK.

These include I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!, Saturday Night Takeaway, The Jonathan Ross Show, The Jeremy Kyle Show, Loose Women, Mr Selfridge and Lewis, and the lucrative peak-time soap opera staples Coronation Street and Emmerdale. It will also have the rights to show The Graham Norton Show, which is broadcast on BBC One, but is made by the ITV Studios-owned So Television.

In addition to Mr Kenny’s shows, UTV Ireland will also broadcast a 30-minute early evening news round-up, Ireland Live, and a 60-minute news and current affairs programme called Ireland Live at 10. Alison Comyn will be one of its main news presenters and a second anchor will shortly be announced.

About a third of the channel’s planned 120 positions have been filled, with the remaining employees set to be recruited between now and January. One senior position that has yet to be announced is the head of news, which was first advertised at the start of the year, and has proven one of the more difficult jobs for the broadcaster to fill.

Other domestically produced content includes Rare Breed, in which 22 Irish farming families talk about their lives and Lesser Spotted Journeys, featuring Lesser Spotted Ulster host Joe Mahon on “his own unique journey across Ireland”. The chefs Paul Rankin and Nick Nairn, who present Paul and Nick’s Big Food Trip for UTV, will also feature on the new channel.

The company is still in negotiations with platform providers Sky, UPC, Saorview and Eircom about their carriage of the new channel. Securing a spot high up the electronic programme guide (EPG) of each platform may be critical to UTV Ireland’s ambition to become the second most-watched channel in Ireland, behind RTÉ One.

Mr McCann said there was “another four months of gestation” ahead for the channel, which is currently constructing its studios at Macken House in Dublin’s Docklands.