Just when you thought the story of UTV channel branding was over comes an unexpected post-script. Christmas on UTV – yes UTV – has a sponsor.
The bumpers appear around all the programmes which don’t have a regular sponsor. You might think this seems more than a little odd. Viewers in Northern Ireland have seen ITV trails and continuity since April.
I’m being careful in my phrasing here – without being pedantic, it now seems incorrect to refer to the third channel itself as UTV. To do so denies the reality of the channel branding. Rather UTV is the name of the ITV region.
So what’s going on? The explanation is simple enough.
The opportunity to have a separate sponsor for Christmas in Northern Ireland came up because ITV’s network sponsor does not have any branches in Northern Ireland.
This is not completely unusual. A number of UK companies don’t operate in Northern Ireland or don’t actively seek to advertise to viewers in Northern Ireland. Notable examples would include certain banks and insurance companies.
At the same time, ad breaks in Northern Ireland include commercials from firms based in the Republic seeking all-Ireland coverage.
Observant viewers may have noticed that Emmerdale currently has a different sponsor in NI.
All well and good but why do the Christmas bumpers still refer to UTV? It could be that the sponsorship was agreed before the official decision to move to network trails and continuity permanently.
While the direction of travel may have seemed clear, there is no reason to suspect the actual decision was taken much more than a month ago.
The official end of UTV continuity has not caused the sky to fall in. It’s led to a couple of nostalgic articles in newspapers but there’s little sense of public discontent.
However, by accident or design, the sponsorship bumpers help demonstrate to anyone who may be worried that UTV itself has not gone.
My bet though is that over the next year or two, the remaining uses of the UTV logo will gradually disappear as systems get refreshed or graphics get updated naturally.
The name will survive in the same way as Meridian and Granada – a regional sub-brand under the ITV logo.
PICTURED: Christmas on UTV sponsorship sting. COPYRIGHT: ITV plc.