TV3 gets ahead of pack for autumn launches

Broadcaster ‘going big on food’ gives first taste of autumn schedule

TV3 rugby panelist and former Ireland captain Keith Wood. The station has secured the rights to the Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

TV3 rugby panelist and former Ireland captain Keith Wood. The station has secured the rights to the Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

 

It seems a little early for autumn launches but yesterday TV3 set out its stall to advertisers.

“We’re borrowing from the American model of ‘upfronts’, where broadcasters give a longer overview to prospective advertisers,” says TV3 commercial director Pat Kiely. “Now brands can see what we’re doing as far ahead as autumn/ winter 2016.”

And the station, which is warmly embracing the advertising-funded programming (AFP) model – a key message at the yesterday’s presentation – is keener than ever to get brands on board.

In just four years TV3 has come a long way since its first paid-for product placement – the first on Irish TV – when a €250,000 deal with Kraft foods saw the presenters of the station’s Morning Show and Midday show never without a large, Kenco-branded coffee mug to hand.

The AFP model goes much further in that brands come on board at the earliest stage to part-fund the programme. It’s thought that The Restaurant, which TV3 picked up when RTÉ dropped it, was more than 50 per cent funded by its sponsor, Aldi.

“We’ve moved to become a station where 50 per cent of our content is Irish-made and we can only do that if, as a commercial broadcaster, we fill the funding gap,” says Kiely of TV3’s response to losing Coronation Street and Emmerdale in December 2014.

The Restaurant was a ratings hit and is to return to the schedule and it’s likely that Aldi will again be on board.

That the German supermarket was involved in the show would have been blindingly obvious to even the least media-savvy viewer simply because there were so many apparently random shots of its suppliers and products.

There have been more subtle examples of AFP though, in other popular programmes, such as the involvement of Odlums in The Great Irish Bake-off and of Crown Paints in Neville’s Doorstep Challenge.

“There has to be a balance. Commerciality cannot come ahead of the content imperative,” says Kiely. He makes a convincing argument in how AFP can work, with the Costcutter example on the station’s critically well received weekly drama Red Rock. “Having an actual brand that people recognise gave the set an extra authenticity.”

There is a fine line, though, between a carefully managed AFP and an advertorial – viewers can tolerate the former but usually cannot tolerate the latter. To manage this, the station has appointed a head of AFP, Patrick Kinsella.

“He worked here in commercial and then moved to become a producer, so he understands both sides,” says Kiely.

Two new series looking for sponsors yesterday were Irish takes on international formats: The Great Irish Menu (“We’re going big on food,” says Kiely); and House Rules.

Made by Shinawil, the latter will be an Irish version of the megahit Australian show – it beats Masterchef and The Voice in the ratings down under – in which competitors do up each other’s houses.

Kiely would ideally like to see 80 per cent AFP for House Rules and expects the series, which will have at least 10 parts, to cost close to €1 million. As with the Australian format, the winner will get their mortgage paid off.

The mood is buoyant at TV3. This time last year, the soon-to- arrive UTV Ireland, armed with what had been TV3’s crown jewels – ie soaps – was making very loud noises about squashing its rival. So far the rivalry has proven a damp squib, however – industry insiders now call it the “phoney war” with the newcomer badly misjudging the programme tastes of Irish audiences and getting off to a rocky start.

Meanwhile, TV3 brought a impressive piece of silverware to its presentation yesterday – the Webb Ellis cup – a not-so- subtle reminder that the station has bagged the rights to the Rugby World Cup.

Adding to its announced roster of commentators, which includes Keith Wood, Peter Stringer and Shane Jennings, the new addition is Irish international Seán O’Brien.

As well as broadcasting all games from September 18th to October 31st, there will be midweek rugby programme. A sponsorship deal for the entire rugby coverage is near completion.

Also confirmed yesterday was the worst-kept secret – that Ivan Yates and Simon Delaney have been signed to present the station’s new idea: weekend morning shows. The lifestyle shows will air from 9am to noon on Saturday and Sunday.