After a difficult year for television advertising, TV3 Group is looking to its first Six Nations and the debut of Ireland's Got Talent to kick-start its 2018, says managing director Pat Kiely.
“It is going to be one hell of a quarter for us,” said Mr Kiely as the broadcaster “cut the ribbon” on its coverage of the rugby tournament, to which it has the television rights for the next four years.
Ireland's Got Talent will launch on Saturday, February 3rd, the first day of the Six Nations, when Wales will play Scotland followed by Ireland's game against France in Paris.
The Irish version of the British entertainment series, which will be produced for TV3 by Gogglebox Ireland makers Kite Entertainment and Green Inc, is a key part of what TV3 director of programming Bill Malone earlier called TV3's "Super Bowl" approach to the Six Nations.
The Virgin Media-owned broadcaster hopes the tournament will have a “halo effect” on the rest of its schedule, with viewers drawn to the channel for the rugby sticking around for other programming.
This year has been a disappointing one for advertising, with the Irish market going into unexpected decline, although Mr Kiely said there was evidence of “green shoots”.
TV3 is in the final stages of negotiating a sponsor for the Six Nations and is expected to announce a deal in the early new year. As well as a series of sponsorship stings around its coverage, the sponsor will have first right of refusal on the solus whistle ad break, in which a single ad runs just before the start of each match.
Ad break package
Other brands are said to be interested in the solus whistle ad break package, which will be priced at €100,000 if it is not taken up by the sponsor, while advertisers will pay €75,000 for a guaranteed 30-second spot in the half-time break of each match.
The experienced Niall Cogley, who will be the executive producer of TV3's coverage, was at Twickenham last week, visiting the television compound within England's home ground and exploring commentary positions.
The biggest logistical challenges – as well as potentially the largest audiences – will come on the last “Super Saturday” of the tournament, which falls on St Patrick’s Day.
The fixture list begins with Italy v Scotland, with England v Ireland in the afternoon and Wales v France at 5pm. Depending on earlier results, the final match could either be a dead rubber (with nothing at stake) or critical to the outcome of the tournament. “We have to build our logistics around that,” said Mr Cogley.
On Friday, TV3 announced that Joe Molloy, a presenter on Newstalk's Off The Ball, will be the main anchor of the Six Nations, which Mr Cogley said was "a bit of a statement" for TV3.
While the broadcaster is “not looking to reinvent television coverage of rugby”, it still plans to “develop our own style”, he said.
TV3 Group snatched the rights from RTÉ for 2018-2021 in a deal with the Six Nations Council announced in November 2015. It is understood to be a loss leader for the channel, despite the influx of advertising revenue that it will bring.
NatWest was last month confirmed as the new title sponsor of the tournament as a whole, replacing Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).