TV3 soap must ‘get into people’s psyche’
Broadcaster invites programme pitches and studio bookings from UK market
TV3’s Niall Cogley during the construction of the Sony HD Studio last year. Photograph: Eric Luke
What might a TV3 soap opera look like? According to director of content Jeff Ford, the soap should be aimed “first and foremost” at TV3’s Irish audience, it should be set in an urban location and will perhaps have a more youthful slant than some existing soaps, in keeping with TV3’s viewer demographic.
Ford was part of the TV3 contingent that travelled to the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival last week and he used the occasion to “invite people to come and have a conversation and exchange ideas about how a soap would run and how it would work”.
Though TV3 is “obviously engaging with producers in Ireland”, he says, it is opening up the tendering process to UK independent production companies.
Before Ford joined TV3, the broadcaster had originally considered the possibility that Deception, the six-part drama set on a Galway housing estate, could be extended from its initial run into a longer recurring series. However, Deception, which was TV3’s first attempt at home-produced scripted drama, has now been put to bed.
This time TV3 will “very clearly say” to production companies that what they are looking for is a soap, says Ford. “It would be on at least twice a week, I’d have thought. And you can’t just be on for three months, you need time to get into people’s psyche,” he adds. “It is a huge commitment.”
Stuart Murphy, director of Sky’s entertainment channels, told the festival that the problem with introducing a new soap is that competitor channels inevitably schedule aggressively against it on launch night.
“Whenever you produce something that you love, someone always schedules against it,” agrees Ford, though he doesn’t believe a soap would make sense for Sky in any case.
TV3 was also at the Edinburgh festival to drum up bookings for its 500sq m asset, the Sony HD Studio, which has already been used by Tyrone Productions to film RTÉ’s School Around the Corner and by 360 Productions to shoot the science-themed Real Cool Stuff for BBC Worldwide.
“We were there first of all to introduce ourselves,” says Niall Cogley, TV3 director of broadcasting. “The television commissioning process is a weird and wonderful collection of dark arts. In each different production, a different person makes the decision – it could be anyone from the production manager to the chief financial officer.”
So far, it has been the bigger companies and organisations that have shown interest in travelling to Ballymount to make programmes.