The Big Deal and Redemption lead new season on Virgin Media Television

Broadcaster looks to talent show and second chances drama for next audience gains

Virgin Media Television's new season will be led by "the biggest entertainment show we have ever done" and "the biggest drama we have ever done", director of content Bill Malone said on Wednesday as the broadcaster revealed more detail about its upcoming shows.

Rollerskaters in neck harnesses and other acrobatic stunts will be among the variety acts to feature on its six-part talent contest extravaganza The Big Deal, for which Virgin has joined forces with Fox Alternative Entertainment and Dublin-headquartered Bigger Stage, led by former Virgin Media Television boss Pat Kiely.

Virgin hopes the show, a talent contest “with game show jeopardy and temptation”, as Boy George – one of the judges – described it, will breathe new life into the Saturday night talent show genre at a time when older formats are either on the wane or, like The X Factor or Virgin’s own Ireland’s Got Talent, have been axed.

Presented by Vogue Williams, the judging line-up also features Jedward, ex-JLS popstar Aston Merrygold, rising music star Lyra and comedian and actor Deirdre O’Kane.


“I’ve been judging people all my life and now I’m going to get paid for it,” said Ms O’Kane of her new television gig.

Virgin also has high hopes for Redemption, a six-part drama starring Belfast actor Paula Malcomson – who appeared in the Hunger Games films and television series such as Deadwood and Ray Donovan – in the lead role of "fearless" DI Colette Cunningham, a Liverpudlian detective who travels to Dublin to investigate the death of her long-lost daughter.

Ms Malcomson said the series was “a meditation on grief” and also a show about second chances and “not being defined by your mistakes”.

The drama is a co-commission between Virgin and ITV, while Virgin is also on board ITV's adaptation of Graham Norton novel Holding, which is now filming in Cork. Both dramas were backed by State agency Screen Ireland at an early stage, while Redemption was also supported through the BAI's licence fee fund.

“We’ve worked hard to put together partnerships and work with international partners to effectively get more money on screen, and that’s better for viewers,” said Mr Malone.

He said 2021 had been “a standout year” for the broadcaster, with “tremendous momentum and audience growth”. Virgin’s Player streams are on track to reach 33 million streams for the year and Mr Malone signalled that more programming would debut on-demand ahead of their broadcast on its linear channels.

RTÉ partnership

Next year will also see Virgin Media Television embark on a local partnership with RTÉ, as both broadcasters are lined up to share the television rights to the Six Nations and Women's Six Nations.

A sub-licensing deal with Saran Media Group means there will be UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League action on Virgin again this season, while its coverage of the Cheltenham and Aintree racing festivals also continues.

The broadcaster's Sport Stories strand is set to kick off with a two-part interview with Paul McGrath, while former Munster rugby player Alan Quinlan will present the documentary Breakdown: Ireland's Mental Health Battle.

Elsewhere, new entertainment format Generation Dating is billed as a “heartwarming” series in which twentysomethings and over-65s manage each other’s dating choices, while fans of Love Island may be tempted by Virgin Media Two’s latest ITV2 import, dating show Ready to Mingle, from September 6th.

Old favourites are led by Gogglebox Ireland – which had its "best season ever" in its most recent run, Mr Malone said – and Living with Lucy. Presenter Lucy Kennedy will visit the home of Paul Gascoigne for one episode in the series, which is back to its original format after a brief stint as Lodging with Lucy to comply with last year's Covid restrictions.

The Guards: Inside the K, a hard-hitting documentary series, will return for more, while other documentary titles include OnlyFans: Ireland's X-Rated, The Murder Files: The Killing of Jason Corbett, Crime Does Pay: 25 Years of CAB and four-part forensics-focused series Ireland's Unidentified Bodies.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

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