UTV Ireland is to be rebranded in January as be3, a new “female-focused” channel within the TV3 group, which bought the channel for €10 million from ITV.
TV3’s managing director, Pat Kiely, and its new programming director, Bill Malone, unveiled a rebrand of all three channels in the group on Tuesday at an event in Dublin.
TV3, the flagship channel, will on January 9th receive its first refresh since 2009, and will carry its most heavy-hitting current affairs content, as well as ratings hits such as Emmerdale and Coronation Street, acquired via a new content deal with ITV.
Its second channel, 3e, will also be rebranded. Mr Malone said it will be a “playful” channel, aimed at 15- to 44-year-olds, with a focus on light entertainment offerings such as Big Brother and Graham Norton.
Be3, meanwhile, will also take over responsibility for 3e’s three hours of daily children’s programmes.
Mr Malone said it would be “female focused”, with an emphasis on screening dramas and soap re-runs, as well as two news bulletins.
A new studio will also be built at TV3’s Ballymount headquarters, which will be used a central hub for news production supplying content across the group.
Mr Kiely said the new studio would open “early in the new year”, with sources speculating this could be April.
Shortly before UTV Ireland becomes be3, that channel will move from its current base in the north inner city out to Ballymount.
A redundancy consultation is currently ongoing following the buyout from ITV, with many of UTV Ireland’s 61 staff expected to lose their jobs.
About 40 positions are open within the TV3 group, which will provide opportunities for some of the affected UTV staff.
Many more freelancers and contract staff face much more uncertain futures.
Mr Kiely said TV3’s parent group, Virgin Media, had invested €2.5 million in TV3 , including work at Ballymount to prepare for the new arrival.
He said TV3 remains “acutely aware of the challenges it faces” in the media and advertising market, but he was confident that under Virgin’s ownership it would become a major force.
“Our primary focus is on content, and that’s where the core investment is going,” he said.
Mr Kiely said there would be “complementary scheduling” across the three channels at any given time, to maximise its effectiveness for advertisers, who tend to buy ads across the group rather than for any single channel at once.
He declined to reveal when TV3 might return to profitability as a group, which lost €17 million last year.
However, this will improve automatically this year with the lessening of competition through the purchase of UTV Ireland.
Mr Kiely said Virgin does, however, expect him to produce a return on its investment in TV3.
“There is an opportunity for the group to take its place at the top table of international broadcasting,” he said.
© 2016 THE IRISH TIMES.