Dark drama The Fall proves a bright spot for RTÉ

The BBC-commissioned five-part thriller is a co-production success story

Will Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) hunt down Belfast's serial killer (Jamie Dornan) in the final episode of The Fall this Sunday?

The suspense has sustained an average audience of 374,000 across the first four episodes of the crime drama as it is broadcast on RTÉ on Sunday nights. (BBC Two, which commissioned the drama, airs it 24 hours later.)

An average of 403,600 tuned into the creepy first episode on RTÉ, with the number dropping to 353,100 for the second equally chilling week. The audience increased again to 404,200 for the third instalment and tailed off on the bank holiday weekend to 333,300 for the no-less disturbing penultimate episode.

The BBC recommissioned the series after the first three episodes averaged 3.5 million viewers in the UK, making it the biggest BBC Two drama to launch since the more cheerfully barbaric Rome in 2005. RTÉ is "geoblocked" on television screens in the North while it broadcasts The Fall, in order to protect BBC Two ratings in the region.


The BBC drama, produced by Artists Studio in conjunction with BBC Northern Ireland, secured funding from Northern Ireland Screen. RTÉ is also on board as a co-production partner, but in a lesser capacity – making the success of the Anderson-led show in the UK something of a blessing for the cash-strapped drama department at Montrose.

The RTÉ ratings, while much lower than averages for Love/Hate and the axed Raw, are healthy for the time of year, and are especially attractive given the broadcaster didn't have to stump up the bulk of the cash to make it.

New programming
Cost-effective ratings hits are badly needed. The arrival of The Fall in May comes on the back of a poor April for RTÉ from a commercial standpoint, according to a market update from media buyer Carat, which described recent declines in the performances of both RTÉ and TV3 as "quite worrying".

RTÉ’s 25-44-year-old audience fell 18 per cent year-on-year during the month, while TV3’s declined 12 per cent.

"RTÉ will be hoping that their new programming, scheduled to hit the screens over the next few months, including The Hit, Quirke and Suits, will help address this concern."

But before the summer television drought properly sets in, The Fall, written by Allan Cubitt, will wrap up its first series with what the BBC promises will be "a gripping cliffhanger".

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics