Soap battle lost but war goes on


RTE's response to the loss of Coronation Street would seem to indicate the national broadcaster has conceded the ratings battle - in the short term at least.

Media planners feel the station will put up a stronger fight as the year goes on, particularly once Eastenders moves over in April. Little Misfortune, Out of the Blue, Drive and The Simpsons are scheduled for the RTE 1 slots previously occupied by Coronation Street.

"They're holding up the white flag," says Mr Paul Moran, media director at Mediaworks. "It's unfortunate but I wouldn't see January as representative of what they'll do in the future." Eighty per cent of viewers watching television between 7.30 p.m. and 8 p.m. watch Coronation Street. While its acquisition is a coup for TV3, it will test the station's ability to keep an audience. Up to 80 per cent of RTE 1 viewers are expected to migrate to TV3 during that period, but a significant number are expected to watch the soap on UTV.

To encourage direct migration to TV3 instead of UTV, the station is launching a promotional drive - giving away 12 cars during the break in the first 12 episodes.

The real weapon in the battle for viewers is strong scheduling, particularly in the period before and after Coronation Street. "Looking at what TV3 is offering in these slots, I can't really see them holding on to Corrie's audience," says Mr Moran.

Emmerdale will be broadcast before Coronation Street and either Eastenders, a movie or Charmed depending on the evening will follow.

Ms Georgina Carraher, media director at Young Advertising, said she thought RTE had E has have done the right thing by not even trying to compete for the 7.30 p.m. audience but added that the real battle for all stations began at 8 p.m. "That's the crucial time for RTE to win back the audience and keep them until 10 p.m.," she says.

On Fridays, at least, it looks as if it will succeed with an hour-long second outing for Who Wants to be a Millionaire? at 8 p.m.

McConnells has held on to the £2 million (€2.54 million) AIB advertising account after a competitive pitch.

As part of the selection process, a number of agencies were asked for a written submission. Four agencies then made it to the pitch stage including Cawley Nea, Ogilvy & Mather and DDFH&B. Cawley Nea has been appointed support agency.

Kraft Foods International has consolidated the bulk of its $200 million (€220 million) pan-European media planning and buying business into three agencies, with the Irish side of the business going to Zenith Media.

Mindshare in Ireland had previously handled the Kraft account, which includes brands such as Dairylea, Philadelphia, Kenco, and Maxwell House.

Irish Life has again signed up as the sponsor for RTE's broadcast of the US hospital drama series ER. The company will be spending £500,000 over the five-month broadcast period in sponsorship, advertising and related costs.