RTÉ television chief defends ‘Rebellion’ as viewer numbers fall

1916 drama series is not perfect but ‘people are discussing it’, says Glen Killane

Extras from Rebellion at filming last year. The RTÉ series is reputed to have cost €7 million to produce. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Extras from Rebellion at filming last year. The RTÉ series is reputed to have cost €7 million to produce. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times


RTÉ’s managing director of television Glen Killane has said he is not concerned about the fall off in numbers watching the broadcaster’s flagship 1916 programme Rebellion.

The numbers watching the third and fourth episode of the five-part series were down on the first two episodes.

An average of 618,700 viewers watched the first episode on RTÉ One and an additional 45,000 viewers on RTÉ One +1. These figures are for the live audience plus anyone who played back a recording on the same night.

In the consolidated ratings, which include playbacks over a seven-day period, this first-episode audience rose to 702,900 for RTÉ One and 47,600 for RTÉ One +1. Separately, there were 106,000 streams for the first episode on the RTÉ Player.

The second episode did slightly better in the overnight and consolidated ratings. But by the fourth episode, the overnight audience was down to an average of 487,600 viewers on RTÉ One and an additional 51,300 viewers on RTÉ One + 1.

Consolidated viewing figures won’t be available for the fourth episode until next week. To date, this penultimate episode has had 29,000 streams on the RTÉ Player.

Mr Killane said Rebellion’s audience share was still around 35 per cent, and up to 40 per cent for consolidated viewing, whereas the first series of Love/Hate had an audience share of 27 per cent.

Rebellion has had decidedly mixed reviews with criticisms of the historical accuracy of the drama, its script and pace.

Mr Killane said it was inevitable that a drama about the Easter Rising was never going to please everyone.

“Is it perfect? No. Am I happy with it? Yes. Is it going to please everyone? No. Is it doing what I hoped it would do and engaging people in the subject? Yes, it is, and people are discussing it.

“It is hugely ambitious project for us. A period drama is a big statement. We’ve put a lot of love and care and attention into it. With a subject like 1916, there are so many points of view.

“It is not factual. It is a drama. There are people who love it and there are people who don’t like it as much. That’s what you are always going to get with TV. It is always subjective. I don’t think Love/Hate was universally loved.”

Rebellion is reputed to have cost €7 million, making it the most expensive drama series RTÉ has done to date. Rebellion is produced by Touchpaper Television and Zodiak Media Ireland with SundanceTV. Zodiak has the international distribution rights to it.

Mr Killane said a follow-up series based on Irish history at the time was in development and SundanceTV was on board, but it may take two to three years to be broadcast. Rebellion was in the planning stage from 2012, he pointed out.

RTÉ is one of the partners in the Century Ireland website which was launched this week. Consisting of a collaboration between Boston College, RTÉ and the national institutions, most notably the National Library of Ireland, it is a comprehensive site involving all aspects of the Rising.

The multimedia approach to the Rising includes video, audio and stills along with commissioned articles from experts in the field.