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Just 28,000 viewers a night turn to UTV Ireland's news bulletin

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NEWS ANCHORS: Chris Donoghue and Alison Comyn of UTV

NEWS ANCHORS: Chris Donoghue and Alison Comyn of UTV

NEWS ANCHORS: Chris Donoghue and Alison Comyn of UTV

UTV Ireland is struggling to make its mark as new figures reveal the nightly 6.30pm news bulletin is pulling in just 28,100 on average each night.

The figures are ominously similar to the 29,000 a night who tune into Sky News Ireland when it first launched in 2004, two years before its last broadcast.

However, UTV Ireland managing director Michael Wilson played down the comparison and insists he is happy with the new station's performance.

"We are delighted with the performance of the news bulletins. We knew we were up against tough competition but our focus is on building reputation and a channel in year one. And in terms of audience we are delighted with it," he told the Sunday Independent.

"Sky News Ireland was an opt-out service within an established quality news channel. But what we are building is a full new general entertainment channel, focusing on building a reputation as a news provider that is a real alternative to the national broadcaster's product and our licence with the BAI is a 10-year licence. Our programme licence is long term, as is our commitment to high quality news."

In terms of overall viewership, taking in commercial programming, Mr Wilson said: "We have been on air a little more than 20 days, but even in that period, in peak time, we have been ahead of TV3 in share on a number of nights."

However, a spokesperson for rival station TV3 said the figures show UTV Ireland has "failed to make an impact".

The 5.30pm news on TV3 continues to grow, with an average of 177,200 viewers and 18.36pc market share in comparison to UTV's Ireland Live at 6.30pm, which has an average market share of just 2.09pc.

Meanwhile, over at Montrose, since the first week of the year, RTE One's Six One News has attracted an average audience of 517,000 viewers (40pc) on weekdays.

On hearing the latest figures from UTV Ireland, an RTE spokesperson said: "In an increasingly competitive market we are delighted to see viewers continuing to choose RTE News and RTE One as their prime TV news source in such huge numbers."

Television advertising expert Stuart Fogarty warned that instead of trying to break news stories and compete with the might of RTE, UTV Ireland needs to emulate America's top magazine show CBS.

"UTV Ireland landed Emmerdale and Coronation Street when ITV bought the rights to those hugely successful programmes so now the biggest cost to the channel is news," he said.

"They had the masts and the production staff and infrastructure. So the problem now is how to provide the news as part of this new base they have set up in the South.

"The fundamental issue is that RTE is seen as the bulletin of record so if people want local Irish news, that is where they will go. On top of that, digital is breaking the news. So people now have updates throughout the day on their mobile phone and computer. By the time it is aired in the evening, they might tune in to RTE or TV3 to see if they missed anything.

"With that in mind, UTV Ireland needs to follow CBS and take on the role of the magazine show.

"They need to delve into the stories behind the news headlines, it needs to be informative - not about the things that happen but about 'why' they are happening and what comes next.

"It should be about people in the news and have strong high-profile guests,

"Take the example of the Leo Varadkar interview. By that night everyone knew - so now it's time to deal with why this is significant."

Sunday Independent