TV3 reels in the years as it becomes Virgin Media One
‘Pat Kenny’s Big Debate’ and archive series ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ on autumn schedule
Claire Brock will present the new 8pm news bulletin on Virgin Media One (TV3). Photograph: Brian McEvoy
News and current affairs will be boosted and there will be a Reeling in the Years-style look back at Ireland’s recent past in the first autumn season for Virgin Media One, the new name for TV3 from next Thursday.
Pat Kenny’s current affairs show on the channel will morph into a single-issue audience series called Pat Kenny’s Big Debate, while a 20-episode archive show Don’t Look Back in Anger will chronicle the news, music and highlights from the past 20 years, going back to the launch of TV3.
“Current affairs and factual programming play a really important part of this schedule,” said Virgin Media Television director of programming Bill Malone.
A new 8pm news bulletin, which will be anchored by Claire Brock from August 30th, will include a weather update presented by Martin King, who was TV3’s first weatherman when the channel launched in 1998. It will be shown in addition to the 5.30pm news update with Colette Fitzpatrick.
“For a national broadcaster to launch another prime-time news bulletin is a big deal,” said Mr Malone.
The former RTÉ executive said he was “upping the ante” in Virgin Media Television’s ratings battle with his former employer. “No nights of the week are sacrosanct,” he said.
The channel’s 20th anniversary, which falls on September 20th, will be marked by specially commissioned shows including Channel Hop: The Story of TV3 and Gogglebox Does TV3.
Next week’s rebranding follows an investment in the broadcaster, now known as Virgin Media Television, by its owners, Virgin Media Ireland, the broadband provider that belongs to multinational cable group Liberty Global.
Liberty Global chief executive Mike Fries recently revealed that it had invested “€10 million-€15 million” in TV3 on projects including the launch of Virgin Media Sport on September 18th and last year’s technological upgrade of its news studio.
“Over the last 20 years TV3 news has developed a well-deserved reputation as a trusted and independent provider of news and we look forward to building on this as Virgin Media News,” said head of Virgin Media News Mick McCaffrey.
Aoife Stokes, head of factual, said Kenny’s new debate series would see the veteran presenter “taking big single issues and bringing his unique Pat-ness to them”.
The Tonight Show will also return with Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper, as will The Sunday Show with Sarah McInerney, while economist David McWilliams will explore if the State is making the same economic mistakes again in Back to the Future.
Long-running breakfast show Ireland AM will get a new set from next week, while Saturday AM and Sunday AM will be renamed Weekend AM.
Documentary programming includes the series Inside James’s, which takes viewers inside one of the busiest hospitals in the country; The Town, a series following families in Portlaoise “going through the highs and lows of modern Irish life”; and Revolting Ireland, a four-part series fronted by Simon Delaney that looks at the history of modern protest.
The previously announced six-part drama Blood, starring Adrian Dunbar, will run on Monday nights from October, Virgin said, and it is hoped that the series will return for a second run. Another commissioned drama, Darklands, is now in pre-production.
Virgin Media One will also show the remaining ten episodes of the Garda drama Red Rock, which were filmed last year before the show was put into indefinite hiatus. Mr Malone would not say if more episodes would be filmed, nor if it has been officially axed, indicating that it would depend on finances.