Editor of MediaStreet.ie, Nicole Buckler, interviews Willie O’Reilly, RTÉ Group Commercial Director.
Willie is responsible for leading all of the divisional and cross-divisional commercial staff and operations at RTÉ. He has also held positions as Chief Executive of Today FM, and as a Non-Executive Director for the HSE. He has now been working in Media for 35 years.
What can happen in a day at RTE?
RTÉ has a broad range of commercial activities from TV and radio advertising to digital sales, sponsorship, international programme sales, studio hire, The RTÉ Guide, to merchandising. All the managers report to me so it is always varied and never dull.
In terms of the commercial life of RTE, where do you see that going into the future?
We are going through a period of re-structuring. Media sales will change as we consolidate the sales teams and offer a one-stop shop to agencies and advertisers. It’s an exciting time with plenty of change and opportunity.
What are the threats to commercial success for RTE?
That’ll be the competition! Virgin Media is a huge well-funded multi-national as is Sky Media. We are the only domestic media outlet of any real size. We need to fight for our share of audience and be supported by government for the public service broadcasting we do.
And what are the opportunities?
We lead with Ireland first. Our TV and Radio news and current affairs have great ratings as does our drama and entertainment. In a global industry we are the relevant and successful local operator. That’s our unique selling point.
Have you got any insights you want to share with our readers as to where you think content is going in the future, both in Ireland and worldwide?
There is huge growth in international drama led by Netflix, BBC Worldwide, Sky and the US studios. We’ve never had it so good! The general content environment is now a case of ‘ You can have it when you want it and where you want it… and you can be a publisher too!’ This is a striking change from 20 years ago. I hesitate to guess what the next 20 years will bring.
Many media packages that consumers can buy into are now commercial free, such as Netflix. What kind of pressure does that put on commercial life at RTE?
It makes for a tougher environment, but remember some part of this viewing is also a substitute for DVD viewing, which has fallen off hugely. The actual viewing to NetFlix has never been revealed (they won’t say). We suspect that it is much less than people imagine!
In terms of printed publications, like the RTE Guide, what challenges are there going into the future in terms of attracting advertisers? And maintaining readership?
Print is challenging, no doubt about it. The RTÉ Guide has a great editor and a strong journalistic tradition. It is the biggest selling magazine in Ireland and a profit centre for RTÉ. It is no longer a listings magazine, but a lifestyle magazine. Its secret has been to move with the times and evolve with its readers. As long as it remains relevant it will have an audience. The rest is accountancy!
Are the new digital options making competition tougher?
There is an infinite amount of digital inventory; this is the problem and the opportunity. RTÉ rates very highly on any Trust index… that’s what we offer to advertisers, a trustworthy , quality, and safe environment for their communications messages.
What are the plans for the RTE Player?
Watch this space. We will have a new and exciting player offering later in the year!
Will the Brexit have an effect?
Brexit has affected us as many of our advertisers are based in the UK. They make their decisions in sterling so the fall in sterling has affected their spend in Ireland. This has been a loss of several millions to RTÉ. We are watching the Brexit negotiations closely.
Any plans for future co-operative ventures with other parties?
My door is always open.