Battle for viewers as UTV Ireland invades TV3 news slot
teatime war has been declared by UTV Ireland with its battle plan to raid TV3's early evening news audience.
The new station is moving its 6.30pm news programme, Ireland Live, to 5.30pm - the slot occupied by TV3's News at 5.30 programme.
TV3 chiefs are said to be baffled.
"It's up to UTV Ireland to explain why its evening news has failed," a TV3 spokesperson said last night.
UTV Ireland, which began broadcasting on January 1, managed to attract an average of only 28,000 viewers (2.45pc market share) for its Ireland Live programme at 6.30pm.
TV3's teatime news programme has averaged 137,900 (16.8pc market share) since the beginning of the year.
The rescheduling by UTV Ireland of its early evening programming after only five months is being seen by some critics as an act of desperation.
But the announcement that it is elbowing its way into the 5.30pm news slot is bound to lure some TV3 viewers.
Embattled TV3 has already suffered big viewer losses since the arrival of the heavily-resourced newcomer from the North.
It lost Coronation Street as it is under the mantle of UTV Ireland's parent company ITV.
"It's a strange move. UTV Ireland failed in its 6.30 news slot. We own the 5.30pm slot," a defiant TV3 insider told the Herald.
However, UTV's statements about the changes have been upbeat.
"We carried out significant research with our audience which indicated the desire for an earlier teatime news," said Mary Curtis, who is UTV Ireland's head of channel.
"We are, therefore, moving Ireland Live to meet those demands.
"The introduction of hourly updates and the time-shift for Ireland Live will allow us to demonstrate our quality offering to larger audiences."
The TV3 insider said there is actually a bigger overall national television audience from 6.30-7pm when 1,168,700 people in Ireland watch television at that time compared with 832,000 watching from 5.30-6pm.
A UTV spokesman said the station has more viewers than TV3 overall between 6pm and midnight on every week night.
The new station will also broadcast hourly news bulletins between 6am and 5pm on weekdays from Monday, May 25.