TV3 unveils ‘Red Rock’ harbour town soap

Broadcaster plans Irish ‘Gogglebox’ and announces Matt Cooper as its rugby anchor

TV3's new soap opera will be set in a "police precinct" in a fictional Dublin harbour town and has the working title Red Rock, the broadcaster said today, as it shared details of its programme plans with advertisers.

The group also announced that journalist Matt Cooper will present its coverage of the 2015 Rugby World Cup and said it had acquired the rights to produce an Irish version of the Channel 4 hit Gogglebox.

Red Rock is one of several early peak-time programmes that will serve as replacements for Coronation Street and Emmerdale, which from next January will only be broadcast in the Republic on the new UTV channel.

The twice-weekly soap has been created by Element Pictures, UK production house Company Pictures and Peter McKenna, who has written for RTÉ's The Clinic and a number of BBC dramas.


Mr McKenna grew up in Howth, Co Dublin, and said he had drawn on his life when writing the first two episodes of the soap. However, the setting of Red Rock will be fictional and it has not yet been decided where the location filming will take place once shooting begins in October.

TV3 is also considering building a permanent set near its existing studios in Ballymount in order to make the soap, which will employ more than 100 people.

“Although it is set in a police precinct, it’s not a police show, it’s about the wider community,” Mr McKenna said. The team of 10 writers hired for the production range from experienced television writers to people better known as novelists and playwrights.

TV3's director of content Jeff Ford said he was "really, really pleased" to have signed a deal with the British company All3Media to make an Irish Gogglebox, a show in which a regular "cast" of viewers are filmed giving their reactions to the week's television highlights. The format, described as "observational documentary", means RTÉ programmes are likely to be dissected on TV3 screens.

Economist David McWilliams and comedian Jason Byrne will also feature on TV3's schedule in the months ahead, while viewers of the second series of The Great Irish Bake Off "can definitely expect better bakers", according to presenter Anna Nolan.

TV3 chief executive David McRedmond said "stretched resources" had in the past limited the broadcaster's ambition and quality "too often", but he added that this had changed since the building of its new studio. The group, which is owned by private equity firm Doughty Hanson and employs 267 people, recorded a 5 per cent rise in revenues in the first quarter of 2014, which was its best quarter since 2008. "The second quarter is looking equally strong," he said.

UTV is expected to draw a significant slice of advertisers’ money away from TV3 when it launches a channel in the Republic in January. However, Mr McRedmond said he had decided not to pay “exorbitant rates” for the soaps and other ITV Studios programming because the payments were eating into too large a chunk of TV3’s content budget.

TV3, which recently lost out in a bidding war for GAA rights, will be looking to the 48 matches in the Rugby World Cup in September-October 2015 to provide a commercial boost next year. The broadcaster said it was in talks with platform operators to carry a high-definition (HD) version of the channel ahead of the tournament.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

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