TV3 bets on ‘Ireland’s Got Talent’ in new season of shows

Rugby, matchmaking and current affairs will combine to set ‘new tone’, says broadcaster

Has Ireland got talent? TV3 will be hoping there's some lingering somewhere as it confirmed that Ireland's Got Talent, its version of the UK television contest, will be its big Saturday night entertainment show in 2018, the year that marks the 20th anniversary of the channel.

The broadcaster rolled out the purple carpet at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on Wednesday for the launch of its new season of programming, on which it is spending at least €40 million.

Six Nations rugby, to which TV3 has the rights for four years from next spring, should prove the biggest ratings magnet, and TV3 confirmed that Ronan O'Gara will be part of its panel for the tournament.

But the broadcaster, which also owns the channels 3e and Be3, will also be hoping that the Six Nations has a “halo effect” on the rest of its schedule, bringing in more viewers to key peak-time slots in a cut-throat commercial television market where every cent of advertising counts.

Ireland's Got Talent, derived from Simon Cowell's Britain's Got Talent, will be presented by Lucy Kennedy, with Louis Walsh, Denise van Outen, Jason Byrne and Michelle Visage the judges with the buzzers.

Investment in news and current affairs is another key plank in a schedule that TV3 Group managing director Pat Kiely described as its most ambitious yet.

From next Monday, a flashy, smart upgrade to its news set will go “live”.

From October, Sarah McInerney will present The Sunday Show, a new morning round-up of politics and news, with regular contributions from TV3's new political correspondent Gavan Reilly, while David McWilliams will have a four-part series, David McWilliams' Ireland, on social and economic issues.

Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates - drivetime radio rivals - were also confirmed as the hosts of The Tonight Show in the 11pm slot vacated by the retired Vincent Browne.

This was the first TV3 schedule delivered by director of programming Bill Malone, who joined TV3 late last year after previously serving as controller of RTÉ2. Mr Malone has already brought several people with him from RTÉ, including new head of factual Aoife Stokes, who is overseeing TV3's much enhanced current affairs and documentary output.

“Today is about setting a new tone and a new level for TV3,” he said.

Comedian Al Porter, who hosted TV3's launch event and was a regular on RTÉ2 under Mr Malone's reign, will soon be seen in his element playing the "Cilla" role in Blind Date, another of TV3's big new entertainment offerings.

"In Blind Date, you create current affairs. I just report on them," Pat Kenny told Mr Porter.

"This is like a banker's trial here at the front," said Mr Porter, addressing a row of suited executives from TV3 Group and its owner Virgin Media Ireland.

The TV3 schedule showed signs of a consistency that hasn't always been evident in recent, cash-strapped years, with returning hits including Gogglebox Ireland, Living with Lucy and The Restaurant, as well as Mr Kenny's Wednesday night current affairs show.

There was only passing reference to Red Rock, the TV3 soap opera that is going into a production hiatus, with its next batch of 23 episodes, originally scheduled to begin next month, postponed until 2018 and its future beyond that in some doubt.

But for the first time in its history TV3 boasts what could be termed an Irish drama "slate", with those Red Rock episodes joined by the return of the Pat Shortt-starring Smalltown, two-part political drama The Bailout and Darklands, which tells the story of Damien Dunne, a 16-year-old boy in his final year of school who dreams of becoming a professional MMA fighter amidst gang warfare in Dublin.

“Cheery!” said Mr Porter.

Six from the new season:

Living With Lucy

Xenophobic columnist Katie Hopkins will be the most controversial subject in the next series of the show in which Lucy Kennedy moves in with well-known people for 72 hours to see what makes them tick.

The Babymakers

This four-part documentary series follows the stories of six couples as they begin IVF treatment at a fertility clinic. TV3 said the makers had “unprecedented access” to some intensely private moments.

The Tonight Show

Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates will be the men with their faces on the promotional trails, while impressionist Mario Rosenstock will rock up on Thursday nights with his take.

Week-In Week-Out

This four-part documentary series is set within the Midlands prison campus, Ireland’s largest prison facility, and promises to give a “raw and unflinching” portrayal of its inner workings.

True Lives

This documentary strand includes Killer in the Family, which looks at murder-suicide cases in Ireland, and Ireland's Refugee Hotel, which studies the arrival of Syrian refugees in the west of Ireland.

Gogglebox Ireland

You don't have to be a television addict to find Gogglebox Ireland, TV3's version of the Channel 4 show, consistently hilarious and often touching. It's back for a third series.