Belfast Telegraph

UTV pulls plug on Kenny show after just one series

By Niamh Horan

Famous Irish broadcaster Pat Kenny's chat show has been axed by UTV after only one season.

The series, In The Round, launched with considerable fanfare last April.

But at the weekend, a spokesperson for UTV confirmed the decision to drop it.

"UTV Ireland has decided not to go ahead with a second series of In The Round this autumn," UTV said.

"We are delighted to have worked with Coco Television and we would like to thank them for their hard work and commitment to UTV Ireland this year. We look forward to engaging with them in the future on new projects. We are currently discussing future projects with Pat Kenny."

Although a well-placed source at the independent station said bosses remained "very happy" with their choice of Kenny as the linchpin of the channel, they have decided that a change of plan is urgently needed to attract viewers.

At the end of August, UTV Media plc confirmed it was in talks with a buyer - believed to be ITV - for the sale of its TV assets, which include both the television station in Belfast and its new channel UTV Ireland.

UTV Media plc recently reported pre-tax profits of £1m for the first six months of 2015 - down from £10m a year earlier.

Analysts have described the performance of UTV Ireland, which was only founded in January, as the key drag on the company's profits.

UTV Ireland had revenue of £4.9m - more than wiped out by an operating loss of £7.5m - while revenue for the Northern Ireland TV operation was £4.2m. Overall revenue at the firm - one of just three listed companies here - was £58.3m. Operating profit was £2.5m, down from £11.1m a year earlier.

Earlier this year UTV said UTV Ireland was expected to make a loss of £11.5m in 2015.

UTV Ireland has disappointed its parent company with low viewing figures for many of its programmes.

Former RTE star Kenny's entertainment chat show was launched with a debut episode featuring guest GAA boss Mickey Harte, which attracted almost 150,000 viewers. However, by the second episode, an in-depth interview with astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield, only an average of 65,600, or just 4.23% of the Republic's audience, tuned in. The show was filmed in front of a live studio audience in the Round Room of Dublin's Mansion House.

Kenny's team will now build a format around the presenter's ultimate strengths, the station said. "It is back to the drawing board after the chat show didn't work out as well as hoped," said the source.

"Pat has always been very strong on news and current affairs and time and time again he has led the news agenda with hard-hitting political interviews. He is excellent in that role so that is where the focus will turn."

They added: "The team will work hard to develop a quality programme that is built around the upcoming general election, so that it will make the most of the news stories stemming from the campaign and other issues on the national agenda."

UTV was the first commercial TV channel in Ireland when it launched in 1959. It has been in local control since then.

UTV Media plc became one of the most successful media companies in the UK and Ireland, with a radio division, TV and new media divisions. Its radio business is made up of two divisions, Radio Ireland, comprising Belfast-based station U105 and eight channels in the Republic, and Radio Great Britain, made up of talkSPORT and 12 local stations.

Radio GB is its healthiest division, with sales of £13.3m in the three months to the end of March, compared to Radio Ireland revenue of £4.7m and TV revenue of £11.8m.

Belfast Telegraph


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