UTV in for long, hard slog, warns RTE chief Kevin Bakhurst
RTE’s Kevin Bakhurst has said it will be a “long slog” for UTV Ireland to improve the ratings of their flagship news shows.
UTV currently have two news programmes, Ireland Live at 6.30 and Ireland Live at 10 which are anchored by Alison Comyn and Chris Donoghue, who also presents a radio show on Newstalk.
Mr Bakhurst, who is the managing director of news and current affairs at RTE believes it’s still early days for the station.
“The soaps are doing okay audience-wise, it’s early days for them I’d say,” he told the Herald.
“I would have thought there might be more Irish content but maybe they’re going to develop them over time.
“I’m sure they’re going for whatever audience they can get. With the soaps they’re going after the traditional soap audiences. I think they’ve got some work to do with the news shows.
“Their news audiences are relatively low. They’re going to have to do something about that,” he added.
However, he doesn’t believe that it will be easy to improve the ratings for Ireland Live.
“News audiences are the hardest to build from a low base, soaps can go up and down quite quickly but it’s a long old slog to build audiences of news programmes,” he said.
While more than 1.5m people tuned into Ireland Live News throughout January, this dropped to 1.3m viewers in the month of February.
However, Mary Curtis, head of channel at UTV Ireland believes they have a strong product and that viewers will trust them with the news over time.
“Whilst we are very pleased with UTV Ireland’s figures to date, the channel will take time to build and grow its audience,” she said.
“News programmes tend to take longer. A trust and familiarity needs to develop between presenters and audiences, as well as the programme format.
“Ireland Live and Ireland Live at 10 are excellent productions with a highly skilled team,” she continued.
“Both programmes offer a unique alternative to viewers and we will continue to build on the programmes’ strengths – for example our strong regional presences which allows us to report local views on national issues,” she added.
UTV’s plans for the coming months include the launch of Pat Kenny’s new show which is expected to start at the end of April.
It is believed that the show will be modelled on Piers Morgan’s ITV chat show will reportedly focus on in-depth interviews with just two guests per episode.
It is thought the new show could go out on Saturday nights and will be recorded in the Mansion House on Dawson Street.