Virgin Media Television eyes Redemption success after bumper first quarter for sport
Broadcaster toasts highest ever daily share as filming begins on major drama with ITV
Irish actor Paula Malcomson will lead the cast of Redemption, a new drama co-commissioned by Virgin Media Television and ITV. Photograph: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/HBO
Redemption, a new Virgin Media Television and ITV drama co-commission that began filming in Dublin on Monday, marks “a great boost” for the Irish production sector and is “a big deal” for Virgin, according to director of content Bill Malone.
The six-part series stars Belfast actor Paula Malcomson – who appeared in the Hunger Games films and television series such as Deadwood and Ray Donovan – in the lead role of “fearless” DI Colette Cunningham, a Liverpudlian detective who travels to Dublin to work with the Garda and investigate the death of her long-lost daughter.
The mystery drama will be made by Tall Story Pictures and Irish producer Metropolitan Films with the support of Screen Ireland and the section 481 tax credit. Other Irish cast members include Siobhán McSweeney, Moe Dunford, Keith McErlean, Thaddea Graham and Ian Lloyd Anderson.
The series, created by Sean Cook, will air on both Virgin Media One and ITV at a later date.
“It’s great for VMTV to be co-producing a drama of this quality and ambition with international broadcasters,” said Mr Malone.
The co-commission follows Virgin’s recent collaborations with Britain’s Channel 5 on dramas Blood and The Deceived, as well as its co-commission with the BBC of feature documentary Finding Jack Charlton.
The broadcaster is also working with distributor All3Media International, which is jointly owned by Discovery and Virgin parent company Liberty Global, on Eating with the Enemy.
All3Media will handle international sales for the factual format, under the slightly renamed title Eating with Your Enemy, and also distribute the original Irish series, made for Virgin by Irish producers Animo TV.
The production of Redemption got under way as Virgin Media Television announced that it had enjoyed a 12 per cent rise in its share of viewing among adults aged 15-plus in the first quarter compared to the same quarter in 2020.
On March 20th, its all-day share of adult viewing across Virgin Media One, Two and Three reached its highest-ever level of 35.9 per cent. This was the percentage of the people watching television on the day who were tuned into its channels, with the majority of them drawn to Virgin Media One for its coverage of three consecutive Six Nations games.
“Super Saturday” also helped Virgin break its previous record daily average for viewing share among 15-44 year-olds, which reached 41.7 per cent.
This followed a bumper week of racing, as the four days of the Cheltenham Festival averaged 191,000, with two key race days averaging more than 213,000 viewers.
The single most-watched rugby fixture was Ireland v France on February 14th, which averaged 798,400 viewers, while overall viewing to the championship was up 22 per cent compared to last year’s disrupted schedule.
Mr Malone said the quarter had been “swings and roundabouts”, with VMTV able to reap the benefits of an uninterrupted Six Nations but losing out because key programmes such as Winter Love Island remained absent because of Covid-19. “We started off playing a catch-up game,” he said.
News and current affairs output has been “performing out of its skin”, however, with Virgin’s news bulletins showing viewing growth of 52 per cent among all adults and 60 per cent in the 15-44 year-old cohort compared to the first quarter last year.
Finding Jack Charlton, which aired on Virgin Media One on March 28th, has received 415,000 views across platforms, he added, while a new “box set” library on Virgin Media Player has delivered 2 million streams to date this year.
Since the end of the quarter, racing from Aintree has also pulled in viewers, with an average of 222,000 people watching Saturday’s four-hour coverage. This peaked at 507,400 from 5.15pm and 5.30pm, Mr Malone said, as viewers saw Ireland’s Rachael Blackmore make history as the first woman jockey to win the Grand National.