Irish TV bids to woo the diaspora with tractors and song

Channel’s offerings include ‘Farmer Joe and his Tractor’, a ‘cult classic in the making’

Irish TV founders Mairéad Ní Mhaoilchiaráin and Pierce O’Reilly, its chief executive: the company says it will create up to 150 jobs

Irish TV founders Mairéad Ní Mhaoilchiaráin and Pierce O’Reilly, its chief executive: the company says it will create up to 150 jobs

Sat, May 3, 2014, 01:00

RTÉ has The Late Late Show, TV3 has Vincent Browne, the BBC has Graham Norton and Sky has made friends with the GAA. But none of them have what Irish TV has: a channel “song”.

Ireland’s “newest and most exciting live digital media platform”, which launched this week, is “all about connecting Irish communities all over the world”.

And what better way to do this than through lyrics such as “In New York, Chicago and Washington DC/It’s home for a while now with Irish TV”.

The channel’s chief executive Pierce O’Reilly, who founded the station with his wife Mairéad Ní Mhaoilchiaráin, will be hoping the diaspora tunes into a 24-hour schedule of programmes such as the agriculture-themed Grass Roots, traditional music showcase Take Note and comedy “cult classic in the making” Farmer Joe and His Tractor.

A programme strand called County Matters will be produced in each county under various titles, “for example Carlow Matters”, to attract the eyeballs of overseas viewers who are missing their own particular corner of the country.

So can Irish TV, which streams on, succeed where others have failed? It has certainly done some amount of vital legwork by securing a place on the Sky and Freesat platforms and doing a deal with PBS in the US.

But things have changed since Tara TV, the RTÉ-backed cable and satellite channel aimed at the Irish diaspora in Britain. When it was set up in 1996, the internet was in its dial-up days, and even when it was finally wound up after a royalties dispute in 2002, there was no meaningful online supplier of video to satiate (or exacerbate) the cultural homesickness of the diaspora. Now a venture like Irish TV has rivals from YouTube to IrishCentral to multimedia newspaper sites.

Still, it is likely that the company, which says it will create up to 150 jobs, has some breathing space in its bid to woo advertisers and viewers to the platform. Its backer is the London-based taxi entrepreneur John Griffin, originally from Mayo, who last year sold his minicab company Addison Lee for €360 million.

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