Channel 6â€™s presence on Skyâ€™s digital platform has caused a slight improvement in its performance, but it is clear from the entertainment channelâ€™s aborted attempt to attract the lowest common denominator by introducing late night â€˜eroticaâ€™, that things are still not going to plan.
Last month, the channelâ€™s commercial viewing share among adults aged between 15 and 34 had grown to 2.4 per cent. This puts it just behind Irish language channel TG4, which holds a 2.7 per cent share in the same category. Channel 6 could not be reached for comment.
â€˜â€˜It is still shy of their original expected 4 per cent market share for adults aged 15-34. However, the introduction of new homes for their channel has come at a time when all commercial viewing is dropping off year on year,â€ said Audrey Clarke of Vizeum.
â€˜â€˜Pure entertainment channels – like Channel 6, Living TV, MTV and Paramount – are all performing well this year, despite the market drop.â€
The channelâ€™s fortunes have been boosted somewhat by the performance of its flagship programme, Heroes, which won 28,000 viewers for its debut and has enjoyed an overall viewership share in the region of 2 per cent.
However, the performance of the new content secured by the channel is still below buyersâ€™ expectations.
â€˜â€˜Unique programming to Channel 6 – like Brotherhood and Heroes, both quality American imports – are not pulling in the viewing figures they deserve,â€ said Clarke.
â€˜â€˜Unfortunately, Brotherhood goes out on a Sunday night up against RTEâ€™s flagship ER and TV3â€™s big Sunday night movies and also the second half of Lost on Sky One.â€
Another constraint on these showsâ€™ performance is their availability elsewhere. Heroes is broadcast on the Sci-Fi channel, while Brotherhood is also on FX. Both stations are available to Sky Digital and NTL/ Chorus Digital viewers.
â€˜â€˜They were unfortunate with Heroes, as their promotion got caught up in the general noise around the show,â€ said Conor Hanover, broadcast director in Media works.
â€˜â€˜People knew the show was on, but they didnâ€™t necessarily know it was on Channel 6.
â€˜â€˜The result would have been the same even if theyâ€™d spent more money on promotion.â€
In reality, very little of what Channel 6 broadcasts is new to Irish viewers, with some programmes more than ten years old and others weeks behind their British counterparts.
â€˜â€˜They are programmes that you can find elsewhere, so thereâ€™s no point of differentiationâ€™â€™, said Hanover.
His suggestion was for the channel to seek out programming not already available to Irish viewers, at least not at the same time. Even by having a programme a week before a British broadcaster, Channel 6 can draw in viewers. Medical drama House is one such show in its arsenal, with the showâ€™s main British broadcaster Five not available in Ireland.
The consensus was, however, that the broadcasterâ€™s failure to get onto the Sky platform from day one – and the poor placement it received when it did – was doing a significant amount of damage.
â€˜â€˜The channel was not helped by not being available to all homes in the first yearâ€™â€™, said Gary Power, managing director of Saor Communications. â€˜â€˜Its fundamental problem now is of being very low down on the [Sky Digital] programming guide.â€
Channel 6 only joined Sky Digital in February, after months of holding out for a placement beside other Irish channels, like RTE and TV3.
In the end, it was forced to settle for number 223, a far cry from the high-visibility placement which it enjoys on NTL/ Chorus.
Not only does this make the station harder to find for those looking for it, but it also seriously diminishes the â€˜passing tradeâ€™ that comes from channel hoppers looking for good programming.
Considering these obstacles it comes as little surprise to see the station trail behind its projections. Gary Power said the image of Channel 6 had so far been damaged due to unfair comparisons to RTE and TV3, despite it being a niche station.
â€˜â€˜Itâ€™s a decent product, but itâ€™s also a long-term game and the backers know thisâ€™â€™, he said. â€˜â€˜Broadcasting isnâ€™t a two year investment, otherwise everyone would be doing it.â€
Audrey Clarke echoed this point and said it was still early days for the station, which had made the most of what it had in its attempts to generate funds.
â€˜â€˜Channel 6 is one of the lucky newer channels that has more than just spots to sell,â€ she said, referring to its ability to offer programme sponsorship.
â€˜â€˜Some of the extra â€˜thinking outside the boxâ€™ ideas Channel 6 has on offer are giving advertisers the chance to help in the production of shows, web interactivity and competitions within their programming.â€
Hanover said their placement among other small-print satellite listings in TV guides was also a problem, but no matter how well they were publicised, it all came down to content.
â€˜â€˜Their biggest challenge is in building â€˜appointment to viewâ€™ programmingâ€™â€™, he said.
â€˜â€˜The next thing they need to do would be to get people interested, get Sky Digital viewers to add it to their favourites and make them aware.â€