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Virgin Media TV goes live across the Republic of Ireland

Yet another major change for commercial television in the Republic of Ireland, as Virgin Media makes its mark.

On Thursday morning, TV3, 3e and Be3 (the former UTV Ireland) rebranded to Virgin Media One, Virgin Media Two and Virgin Media Three. It's the third big change to the relatively small Irish commercial television market since 2015 and the culmination of the fallout of TV3's sale to Liberty Global subsidiary Virgin Media Ireland and the subsequent sale of ill-fated UTV Ireland to TV3's new owners.

As part of the changes, the broadcaster's 3News service becomes Virgin Media News, with a new nightly 8:00pm news bulletin, as part of a bid to establish the broadcaster has a strong competitor to RTÉ. Presenters include Colette Fitzpatrick and Claire Brock (pictured above).

In the world of sport, Virgin Media's free-to-air services will act as showcase platforms for Virgin Media's new sport channel for Ireland, which launches on Virgin Media Ireland's cable network on 18th September 2018.

Beyond screening soaps, daytime shows and dramas from ITV's portfolio of channels in the UK, homegrown highlights on Virgin Media Television include The Tonight Show with Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates, returning for a new season.

TV3 daily shows including Ireland AM, Elaine and The Six O'Clock Show continue on Virgin Media One, while Xposé is moving to Virgin Media Two from Friday 31st August. Virgin Media TV has also confirmed it will be soon showing new Irish drama Blood , a psychological crime thriller staring BAFTA nominee Adrian Dunbar as well as a second series of Ireland's Got Talent,  due early 2019.

Speaking earlier this summer, Tony Hanway, Group CEO of Virgin Media Ireland, said: 
"This move sees us strengthen our position as Irelands leading connected entertainment provider. Bringing together our broadband and broadcasting networks under the unique Virgin Media brand is an exciting development for our viewers, our customers and everyone in team Virgin Media."

The changes mark the end of the TV3 name after almost 20 years on air in the Republic of Ireland, and follows the 2015 sale of TV3 to Virgin Media Ireland. The 2015 sale came months after UTV Ireland launched in the Republic, taking many of TV3's popular ITV shows. Following UTV's sale to ITV, ITV sold UTV Ireland to Virgin Media Ireland, resulting in a second major change at the beginning of last year, when TV3's channel portfolio was reshuffled and ITV content was reallocated across TV3's channels. Be3, which then launched in place of UTV has now itself been replaced by Virgin Media Three.

Beyond Virgin Media, most other commercial TV services broadcast in the Republic of Ireland are spin-offs of UK services, with Irish adverts.

Since launching this morning, viewers have already complained about the large on-screen channel logos that have accompanied the rebrand. Meanwhile others are concerned that the takeover by Virgin Media means there is now little chance of the main Irish commercial channels now becoming available in HD on free-to-air TV, with a perceived incentive to keep HD for pay TV viewers, especially those on Virgin Media's own cable network.

Terrestrial TV viewers in many parts of Northern Ireland can receive the new Virgin Media Televisions via signal overspill from the Irish Republic. Freeview receivers will put these channels in the 800s, while Saorview receivers will allocate them to channels 3,5 and 6.

  • N.B. On some TV platforms, the new channel names are shortened to 'Virgin One', 'Virgin Two' and 'Virgin Three' while on others the names are displayed as 'Virgin Media 1', 'Virgin Media 2' and 'Virgin Media 3'.