As Mrs Brown and her celebrity guests come rolling into town, the future isn’t looking promising for The Ray D’Arcy Show.
The Finglas matriarch is swapping sitcom for a chat show in a new six-part BBC-produced series - All Round To Mrs Brown’s - that will also be broadcast simultaneously on RTE.
But the arrival of Agnes Brown and her celebrity guests at 9.15pm has wreaked havoc on RTE’s Saturday night line-up, as three other shows move from their regular timeslots to make room for her.
Winning Streak will now be broadcast at the earlier time of 7.40pm and the News and Weather has been pushed forward to 8.45pm.
It’s an unsettling move for those who set their watches by the long-running Saturday night institutions.
But the biggest upset has been brought to The Ray D’Arcy Show as it loses its primetime slot to Mrs Brown. It will now be aired at the much later time of 10.25pm and has been cut by 15 minutes to run on a shorter broadcast time.
The new timeslot spells disaster for viewership. Especially as The Ray D’Arcy Show is following another chat show. It’s hard to imagine that many people will have the appetite for two chat shows back-to-back on a Saturday night.
If a TV show is placed in an irregular time slot and its usual audience isn’t around to watch it, will it have a negative impact on the ratings? Of course, which is the conundrum of RTE’s scheduling.
The new timeslot is normally occupied by movies and repeats, the only people who are tuning in are those who have just come in from the pub or are on the way to bed. Distracted audiences who are likely to hit the 'off' button before the show ends. It’s going to be a struggle for The Ray D’Arcy Show to retain its audience now that it's been moved to accommodate Mrs Brown's live slot on the BBC.
So does this mean RTE has more faith in Agnes Brown than Ray D’Arcy?
It is understood RTE opted to joint simulcast with the BBC's live offering, so as not to lose any potential audience, but it does appear that the national broadcaster expects the Finglas granny to pull in a bigger audience.
The Saturday night primetime slot is valuable.
Mrs Brown’s Boys routinely rules the ratings. Its most recent special, Mammy's Christmas Punch, was the most watched programme on Irish TV over the festive period. It pulled in an average of 668,400 viewers, giving it a massive 42 per cent share of the audience on Christmas Eve.
RTE clearly expects a ratings success with her chat show, enough to sacrifice Ray D’Arcy’s viewership.
The Ray D’Arcy Show has fluctuated in the past but it’s still a ratings success. However, it’s difficult to gauge how well it’s performing now. When Independent.ie requested the chat show’s most recent ratings, RTE were unable to provide them due to a “technical issue”.
Whatever the future holds for The Ray D’Arcy Show and RTE, it’s hard to deny that the signs right now are pretty ominous.