Bubbles Hits: The future of music TV?

A channel with no ads playing pop round the clock. And all dreamt up by two lads barely out of their teens. Ed Caesar discovers how Bubbles Hits floated in

In December last year, James Hyland and Lee Walsh, two young Irishmen already making a name for themselves in the music industry, were watching MTV when they got angry. There wasn't enough music on the channel; there were too many entertainment programmes, and, if they flicked to another music channel all they saw were more adverts.

So they came up with a plan - their own music station. There would be no adverts, no interruptions, and music would play round the clock, every day of the week. In as little as eight months, that fit of pique has generated a bold new enterprise: on 14 August, Bubble Hits, a channel funded purely by sponsorship and text revenue, launches free in Ireland and on Sky in the UK.

Hyland is only 23, and Walsh only 22, which is a mite younger than your average television mogul. As Hyland sits at the boardroom table of a central London office, talking in his high-speed Cork patter, it is clear he is no ordinary twentysomething.

Hyland's career began at the age of 12, when he started his own pirate radio programme, Happiness FM, in his home town of Michelstown, Co Cork. Such was the popularity of Happiness FM that he was soon DJing every night of the week in pubs and clubs up and down the county. "I just wasn't interested in school," he says. "So I was always out on the road. My dad used to drive me around and deal with the whole money side of things."

When he was finally able to leave school, at 16, Hyland immediately found work with a local radio station, Tipp FM. Increasingly, though, he was interested in concert promotion, and at 17, he signed a contract with Atomic Kitten to come and play a one-off concert in Cork. They came, but it was a disaster. The venue had no public transport links; the band lost their luggage; the crowd was disappointing. Hyland's newly formed Noodle Promotions lost €80,000.

"I don't see it as a loss," says Hyland. "No one could teach me all that I learned in that one experience." Hyland learned fast, because the next year he brought pop acts such as Coolio, Dannii Minogue, The Proclaimers and Kool and the Gang to the festival in Michelstown. For a town with a population of 4,000 people, it was quite a shock - most people saw the posters and thought they were getting tribute acts - and the festival generated 80,000 visitors over a weekend.

It was during this period that Hyland met Walsh, who at the time was working for a security company. When Hyland moved to Dublin two years later to concentrate on audio production and concert promotion, the first person he rang was Walsh. They ended up not only sharing a flat, but also forming a limited company, Creative Sounds, which would house their two big projects - the production outfit Pro Audio Images and their music channel Bubble Hits.

"We were losing money every day when we started," recalls Hyland. "Everyone was telling us we were too young. Eventually we had a meeting with Jamster, who are one of the world's largest TV advertisers. And we said to them, what can we do for you. And they said, well, what can you do. They gave us our first order for £8,000. That was huge back then."

One of their first commissions was to provide the voiceovers for Jamster's adverts for a new product they were testing called Crazy Frog. That shrill amphibian has since escaped Britain and Ireland to irritate adults in 29 countries, making Pro Audio Images a substantial sum of cash. It is with this Crazy Frog cash that Bubble Hits has been funded.

"We haven't taken a penny off anyone to fund [Bubble Hits]," says Hyland. "It's a great position to be in, because if it doesn't go to plan, there's less damage involved. But I'm prepared to go hell for leather to make it work."

What he and his partner have come up with is a strategy, both to limit costs, and to engage the viewer. The focus is on music videos - cheap to air, and requiring minimal manpower to organise - and punchy, three-minute segments of interviews with acts backstage or on the road. There will be no sit-down interviews in studios ("studios are boring"), and there will be no costly entertainment programmes ("really boring"). By texting, or by hitting the Bubble Hits website, viewers will decide what they want to hear.

Given Hyland and Walsh's attitude to programming, it's no surprise that they have spent not one penny on advertising their new channel. Instead they have conducted vox pops, shoe-horned themselves and their semi-famous presenters (Irish model Glenna Gilson, ex-EastEnder Chris Parker) into the press, and relied on word of mouth to get the news out there.

"We don't know how many viewers we're going to have," says Hyland. "Personally, I think it's going to be huge, but we don't know that. And there are a lot of companies who can't get into the market we're now into. Mobile phone companies are spending so many millions on adverts, but their stuff isn't being seen."

Proof that the big boys are looking in Bubble Hits' direction came last week when MTV announced a new channel called Flux, a "multi-platform interactive entertainment experience" that "gives viewers control". It can only give the young men confidence.

"People have told us that we're being stupid," says Hyland, "But if someone said to me I could make £20m a year, and have commercial breaks on my channel, or I could make a million quid a year, have a really successful channel, I'll take the million quid."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Danczuk has claimed he is a 'man of the world'
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Ashdown Group: .NET Developer : ASP.NET , C# , MVC , web development

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits - see advert: Ashdown Group: .N...

Guru Careers: 3D Package Designer / 3D Designer

£25 - 30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an exceptional 3D Package Designer / 3...

Guru Careers: Interior Designer

£Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking a strong Middleweight / Senior Inte...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor