A new dawn for TV3 as it goes on the counterattack

Broadcaster says it is ‘feeling good’ about new shows and time-shift channel

Down at the site of what used to be a tobacco factory in Dublin 8, TV3 has been doing some filming. The hard set for its soap opera Red Rock is there, but recently it drafted in The Guarantee director Ian Power for another purpose: to shoot two advertisements for the channel.

The first is the promo for Red Rock, by far the most important and most expensive of the 15 new programmes that will fill TV3's schedule from January.

The opening instalments of the 104-episode-a-year soap are in the can and ready to be marketed by the broadcaster as it prepares to remind advertisers that the arrival of UTV Ireland in the Republic hasn't made it curl up in a ball and weep in mourning for Steve McDonald and Tracy Barlow. Quite the opposite.

The second ad made by Power tells the story of the TV3 schedule from morning to night to the soundtrack of Feeling Good, the Nina Simone version jerking into the more defiant cover by rock band Muse. The lyrics, for anyone who has forgotten them, go: "It's a new dawn/ It's a new day/ It's a new life/ For me/ And I'm feeling good." Cue bombastic riff.

It’s a “#newdawn” for TV3, the tagline then declares. And, certainly, if UTV Ireland’s outlay on soap rights and a news and current affairs team has Ballymount feeling at all wobbly, then it is doing a good job of hiding it.

A 120-second version of the #newdawn promo will air during the ad breaks of The X Factor on Saturday week and a major outdoor advertising campaign will follow. Viewers are not the only target: TV3 also wants "the trade" to know that, notwithstanding UTV Ireland's debut, 2015 will mark a new era for Irish television because of its own efforts.

Advertisers will be reminded that alongside the ambitious project that is Red Rock, TV3's new year offerings include the live daily magazine show Life (scheduled against the soaps), a Lucy Kennedy-fronted Blind Date (catchphrases not included), the inhouse-produced Gogglebox and the premiere of The Guarantee, which TV3 co-funded. Algorithm, Renovation Nation, The Lie, The Restaurant, Jason Byrne's Snaptastic, Donal McIntyre Investigates . . . these are shows that TV3 can afford to make because it is no longer paying ITV Studios an estimated €12-€15 million on rights to acquired programming.

Not that it has lost all its imports to UTV: viewers who up until now could choose between UTV and TV3 may find that the latter has become their only option for programmes such as The X Factor, Downton Abbey and Broadchurch.

The advantage of a schedule that is more than 50 per cent home-produced, however, is that it generates more product placement opportunities and potential international sales. It is hoped that Red Rock will earn cash from both.

Miss an episode? Then catch up one hour later. Next month TV3 Group will do something that seems almost old-school in the days of on-demand viewing but is, in fact, a proven method of attracting more viewers: it will launch a +1 channel.

TV3+1 will become available to UPC subscribers from December 1st, it is understood, with a possible extension to the Sky platform at a later date. At a time when the broadcaster is taking risks on content investment, adding a timeshift channel is much more of a slam-dunk move to keep money coming in. Whatever its audience share turns out to be next year, the addition of TV3+1 to the stable is likely to have added about 5 per cent to it.

Of course, all the schedule jewels and snazzy promos in the world won't stop a chunk of the audience and the available ad revenues diverting to UTV Ireland and that eight-digit annual figure could be regarded as lost income, not just to TV3, but to RTÉ.

TV3's soap losses have deflected attention away from the impact that UTV's advent will have on the public service broadcaster. But UTV's recent hiring of Pat Kenny only reinforces the impression that it will be targeting older, RTÉ One-type viewers. TV3 has typically courted younger viewers and parting company with Coronation Street and Emmerdale clears the way for it to double-down on that demographic.

None of it is a given, but if Red Rock maintains the standards of the production companies involved, if Life strikes the right tone, if Gogglebox delivers cheap laughs and if Blind Date has heart, then TV3 could make itself more of an appointment-to-view channel than it has to date.

With Rugby World Cup coverage destined to prop it up later in the year, it hopes to be able to close out 2015 having held on to both audience share and revenues. That won’t be easy and it might not always be pretty. If this is a new dawn for Irish television, then expect at least some pistols to be packed.

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