Virgin Media seeks to make a splash overseas with new ‘Blood’ drama

Broadcaster targeting international audience with this new psychological thriller

Cat (Carolina Main) and Jim (Adrian Dunbar) are mistrustful daughter and inscrutable father in Virgin Media Television’s ‘Blood’.

Cat (Carolina Main) and Jim (Adrian Dunbar) are mistrustful daughter and inscrutable father in Virgin Media Television’s ‘Blood’.

 

Virgin Media Television is looking to make an international splash with its €4 million series Blood, touting the psychological thriller as “proof of concept” for a production funding model that will allow it to make more high-quality dramas in future.

The six-parter, which centres on an increasingly distressed woman who believes her imposing father has murdered her mother, begins at 9pm on Monday on Virgin Media One, with the second episode available on-demand to Virgin customers immediately afterwards.

Director of programming Bill Malone identified a strong performance in overseas markets as the basis by which Virgin will measure its success. “It is important for us that it does well internationally,” Mr Malone said.

Blood’s per-hour cost is understood to be the highest in the history of Virgin Media One, the channel known until recently as TV3.

It was made for Virgin Media Television by Company Pictures, a subsidiary of UK content producer All3Media, which is 50 per cent owned by Virgin Media’s parent Liberty Global.

The series was made possible by key financing from All3Media International, the distribution arm of All3Media. Irish production company Element Pictures is also on board, while the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Sound and Vision scheme, which is funded by television licence fee receipts, contributed €475,000.

“Our ambition from the start with the assistance of the BAI Sound & Vision and All3Media is to create a funding model that will help us raise the bar in terms of quality,” Mr Malone said. “It is a really great model.”

The series has already been sold to Viacom-owned British broadcaster Channel 5, while it will also feature on Virgin Media’s on-demand platform in the UK.

A deal with Acorn Media Enterprises means it will be available to US and Canadian audiences through streaming service Acorn TV, and the drama will also be showcased at the Cologne Film Festival in Germany on Monday night.

Production credits

Shot in Meath and Kildare over the summer, Blood is written by British screenwriter Sophie Petzal, whose CV includes episodes of TV3 drama Red Rock, and directed by Lisa Mulcahy and Hannah Quinn.

The cast is led by Carolina Main and Adrian Dunbar, the Enniskillen-born actor. “I am hoping it will be very much a live TV event with people watching it as it goes out,” Mr Dunbar said at a screening event in Dublin on Friday.

The actor praised the production’s decision to hire Irish directors and also welcomed Virgin Media’s investment in drama, suggesting viewers will benefit from some healthy competition between it and RTÉ.

“Maybe everyone will pull their socks up a bit,” he said.

This week is an unusually busy one for new scripted Irish television. Treasure Entertainment’s comedy drama Finding Joy, written by and starring Amy Huberman, begins on RTÉ One on Wednesday, while Women on the Verge, co-written by Sharon Horgan and co-commissioned by British broadcasting group UKTV, airs on RTÉ2 from Thursday.