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UTV launches in Ireland

Fledgling channel UTV Ireland has attracted modest audience figures following its launch, despite the network aiming to rival pubcaster RTE by early 2016.

Just 73,000 viewers tuned in to watch UTV’s first homegrown news programme, Pat Kenny’s Out With the Old – In with the U, as the Northern Irish broadcaster made its foray into the Republic on New Year’s Day. At peak, the programme had just over 105,000 viewers.

This was followed by British soap Emmerdale, which attracted an average 185,000 viewers.

However, UTV Ireland MD Michael Wilson told the Irish Mirror that the broadcaster was “delighted” with the first night ratings, claiming they were “well ahead” of expectations.

“We put in a very strong performance for a new channel up against tough competition from established Irish broadcasters,” he said.

“In a year’s time I want UTV Ireland to be the second most-watched channel in Ireland after RTE1. That’s our target.”

Meanwhile, pubcaster RTE has announced it will spend as much as €3m (US$3.59m) upgrading two of its television studios as it prepares to battle with UTV.

UTV Ireland was granted public service status in December and has signed numerous carriage deals. It announced its launch last year, with new offices opening in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick.

The channel made headlines after entering an agreement with UK commercial broadcaster ITV to give it exclusive rights to soaps such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale, which had previously aired in the Republic on commercial TV3.

TV3’s director of content Jeff Ford previously played down the impact of losing the UK soaps from his schedule, telling C21 the money freed up would be spent on original productions.


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