'Panic stations' at Late Late fall
Fierce competition from other channels is giving the long-running show a hammering, writes Niamh Horan
RTE bosses are said to have hit "panic stations" and there is now "serious concern" about The Late Late Show's falling audiences.
Top brass are said to have been concerned about the show's performance for the past year and, now that the flagship show has lost an average of 100,000 viewers since the same time period last year, big changes could be coming.
An official spokesperson for The Late Late Show has, however, staunchly denied these claims.
"It's the toughest season to date in The Late Late Show's history but the show is still holding its own and drawing big numbers. The only reason figures have fallen is because of the unprecedented competition on a Friday night. We never had this competition before."
The spokesperson also pointed out that the show's viewership figures, which are now averaging 604,000 since the start of the season in comparison with 714,000 for the same period last year, are a long way off past low points of the show. The spokesperson explained: "On September 8, 2006, The Late Late Show had 475,000 viewers and was beaten by EastEnders, Corrie and Fair City. There is a perception that the Late Late was and is the top ratings show of the week every week. I can give you plenty of cases when the Late Late was beaten in the ratings in Gay, Pat and Ryan's time. Everything from Winning Streak to Tubridy Tonight to Prime Time to sporting events have topped the ratings."
While show producers have vowed to take on the increasing Friday night competition -- including European qualifiers on RTE 2 and the US X Factor on TV3 -- with gusto, TV3 is busy plotting its next move.
Sources say it is to unleash an even bigger entertainment show, which is hoped will attract a massive cult following.
Ben Frow, TV3's director of programming, is bring a The Only Way Is Essex- style reality show to the channel with Tallafornia -- a "structured" reality show about a west Dublin crew who spend four weeks eating, sleeping and partying together.
"This show is going to be huge. If RTE thought putting Tubridy up against the US X Factor was tough competition then they ain't seen nothing yet" said a source close to the TV3 production.
While representatives of The Late Late Show are adamant it is continuing to do well, an RTE source said there was a crisis brewing behind the scenes.
Speaking last week about the figures for October 7, an audience of 502,000, which left it trailing in the ratings, the source said: "Right now, there are panic stations about how The Late Late Show is performing."
There are mumblings that presenter Miriam O'Callaghan, who was Tubridy's direct rival for the job, is being looked at as the natural successor.
However, Bill Malone, RTE's head of entertainment, said: "As commissioning editor for RTE Entertainment, I can unequivocally state that there are no panic stations surrounding The Late Late Show.
"Ryan has done a great job over the past two seasons and he has actually succeeded in increasing The Late Late Show audience -- a phenomenal achievement given how competitive the television market has become," he said.
"The season has only just started and already The Late Late Show has generated two of the most talked about and most watched TV moments in some time, namely the first interview with Senator David Norris following his decision to pull out of the presidential election and the first televised presidential debate.
"The exact same stories have been written about Gay and Pat for years when they were hosts of The Late Late Show; fluctuating figures are nothing new," Mr Malone added.