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TV3 cut deal with Columbia
22 Oct 1998 :

TV3 is rumoured to have cut a deal with Hollywood Studio Columbia, which would bring the station a crop of first Irish television screenings of major recent films. TV3 is having a great deal of success in the international buying market, which is being attributed to it's connections to CanWest, 45% shareholder in the station and is the largest buyer of Hollywood product outside the US. RTE had been the sole buyer as a monopoly and has now had to double its foreign acquisitions budget to compete with TV3. Not only has the increased competition forced up prices by 10% to 15%, but the ability of CanWest to buy in bulk for all of its networks gives it increased leverage in negotiations, even when RTE is prepared to bid competitively for product.

Buyers can rarely buy one product alone and must commit to taking other, less popular, old or just plain bad programmes as part of the package. Studios bundle dead ducks with one or two middle of the road affairs and one big attraction, as bait to offload product they wouldn't be able to shift otherwise. The $3 million Columbia deal is reported to contain about 200 hours of 'other material' many of which has not been successful in the states, including the romance drama 'Cupid' and update of Fantasy Island, starring Malcom McDowell and 'Mercy Point', which is described as ER in space. Also included are private investigator series VIP starring Pamala Anderson.

RTE has claimed to be close to securing a deal with Polygram. Unfortunately the ownership of Polygram is still being finalised after the recent sale, so any deal will require approval of the new owner, Universal. If the deal is finalised, then RTE would have access to box office hits such as Fargo, Dead Man Walking and Bean. RTE has already secured a deal with Warner Bros. earlier this year for prime time series such as ER and Friends and assorted movies. Deals have given RTE access to both Ted Turner's Catalogue and Disney's cartoons and films. RTE have made a point of strengthening their children's output as this is an area ignored by TV3.

Viewing figures suggest RTE is having one of its best seasons ever with TV3 reaching it's target of 6%-7% by taking viewers from British channels. The advertising agencies support TV3 audience figures and are delighted the station is increasing the Irish audience for advertisers. But in an indication of the challenge facing TV3 for advertising spend, Gateway 2000, which traditionally advertises through the print media, has just launched a major advertising campaign with RTE. The company decided against TV3 because it was their first time on TV and they decided to go with the proven channel rather than the unproven newcomer.

Meanwhile, TV3 is to seek legal advice over a dispute with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) because it is being denied news access to its games. The station was unable to show highlights or interviews with players or officials after the recent 5-0 defeat of Malta. TV3 was approached two months ago by the FAI, reportedly looking for a six-figure sum. TV3 claims it is only looking for the same access given to other news organisations. It is rumoured that UTV have also now been approached by the FAI regarding news access. RTE has not been asked to pay but it has already bought the broadcast rights to all of Irelands home games. TV3 has bought the rights for all of Ireland away games in the European championships. The station had planned to use the Yugoslavia match as the major advertising push for the station because viewers who wished to see the match would have to tune in to the station if they had not already. But the current political crises in Yugoslavia caused the game to be postponed.

Michael McMahon 22/10/98

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