By Joyce Fegan
New faces, new formats, new channels and a new name TV3 has launched its autumn line-up under the new title Virgin Media Television, with the biggest changes happening in sports coverage.
Changes include the news being aired at 8pm, a dedicated sports channel and Pat Kenny presenting a debate-style show with a live studio audience.
The new channels will include Virgin Media One (formerly TV3), Virgin Media Two (the new name for 3e), Virgin Media Three (formerly be3) and Virgin Media Sport, which will give live coverage of Champions League and Europa League games for the 2018/19 season and will see Niall Quinn's return to punditry.
While the first three are free-to-air channels, Virgin Media Sport is only available to Virgin Media TV customers at no additional cost. Anyone else seeking to use the channel will have to pay fees from €10 to €20 a month.
However, Tuesday's Champions League matches and Six Nations rugby will be broadcast free-to-air on Virgin Media One, which will also broadcast the finals of both the Champions League and Europa League.
Virgin Media One will carry live coverage of the Champions Cup, with former Ireland players Shane Horgan and Ronan O'Gara fronting the panel.
O'Gara was asked at yesterday's press conference if "he still had his eye on Joe Schmidt's job" coaching the Irish team, he answered by asking for "any other questions."
Niall Quinn was asked about his return to punditry and said it was a "good thing" to give up commentary for a year. "I got critical of what people were saying, myself included, the average punter," he said.
While the biggest changes are happening in sports there are also several other things happening at the newly-branded station.
One of the most talked-about, is a new drama, called Blood, where a daughter seeks to find out if her deceased mother was in fact murdered by her father, played by Bafta-nominated actor Adrian Dunbar. It is written by Sophie Petzal, directed by Lisa Mulcahy and Hannah Quinn, and co-produced by Ingrid Goodwin. While it has nearly an all-female backroom team, one of the main characters is played by Adrian Dunbar, from BBC One's crime thriller Line of Duty.
"Adrian is so able to fluctuate between menace and charm in the flick of an eye and backwards. You just don't know. One minute you think 'yep he did it,' the next minute you think 'no.' He's a goodie or he's a baddie," explained director Lisa Mulcahy.
The six-part series has already attracted serious international interest.
Virgin Media Television has also gone big on factual programmes with a documentary called Getting Away with Murder, investigating the 1998 disappearance of Wexford teenager and mother-of-one Fiona Sinnott. This is being made my Emmy-nominated producer Shauna Keogh.
Another interesting documentary is Revolting Ireland, which looks at our history of protest and is presented by actor Simon Delaney.
"Ireland is a nation born from a revolt," said Delaney who detailed some of the issues covers in the programme including the recent women's rights marches, the water protests and Dunnes' workers striking over the apartheid in South Africa in 1984. Bob Geldof is one of the high profile interviewees for the programme.
TV3 will officially rebrand to Virgin Media Television on August 30.