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Things are not quite going to plan inside UTV Ireland

It is expecting to lose twice as much money as predicted this year.

UTV Ireland's Alison Comyn
UTV Ireland's Alison Comyn
Image: Jason Clarke Photography

UTV HAS DOUBLED its predicted losses this year on its new Irish station after admitting its early audience figures were lower than expected.

The UK company said its forecast losses on UTV Ireland would now be £6 million (€8.35 million at today’s rates) for 2015 – up from a previous forecast of £3 million (€4.2 million).

In a statement on its preliminary results for last year, chairman Richard Huntingford said it took “substantially longer than anticipated” to get public-service designation for the channel.

“(This) meant that we had very little time before the launch date for engagement with our prospective audience about EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) positions and, where necessary, retuning of (digital TV) boxes,” he said.

In turn, this delayed meaningful negotiations with advertising agencies. As a consequence, our initial audience levels and advertising revenues have been lower than planned.”

UTV Ireland was only granted access to the state-run Saorview platform in December after chief rival TV3 reportedly tried to block the move.

Soaps the only successes

Audience figures released last month showed the station, which launched on New Year’s Day, was pulling in big audiences for its major drawcards – UK soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale – but was struggling to pull more than single-digit audience shares for other programmes.

UTV Source: UTV Ireland

The station admitted its shows were generally under-performing, particularly at weekends.

However the popularity of the two big shows was still enough to make UTV Ireland the country’s second most-watched station in peak times.

The new channel still trailed significantly behind TV3 on audience share when full-day figures were considered.

UTV2 Peak-time audience shares Source: UTV Ireland

Under a management team with a proven track record in delivering audience outperformance, I am confident that our ambition for UTV Ireland to be the second most watched channel after state broadcaster, RTE 1, within a two-year timeframe will be achieved,” Huntingford said.

The company already recorded pre-operational losses of £3 million (€4.2 million) on setting up the business.

UTV Ireland11 Taoiseach Enda Kenny and UTV chief executive John McCann at the launch of UTV Ireland's new studios Source: Jason Clarke Photography

On the radio

Meanwhile, revenue in UTV’s Radio Ireland business was flat last year, compared to an improved performance for its UK radio stations.

It still holds the number-one slot in every major urban area in which it operates including Dublin, where its FM104 station is particularly popular with the under-35s.

Huntingford said the strong audience figures had offset the worst effects of an “extremely deep advertising recession” in the Republic over the past several years.

More importantly, it provides firm foundations for growth as the Irish adverting market recovers,” he said.

The company recorded an operating profit of £5.4 million (€7.5 million) for Radio Ireland over the full year, while its total profits were worth £19.7 million (€27.3 million).

READ: No comment from RTÉ after Late Late Show ‘doesn’t give Tony Fenton even 30 seconds’ >

READ: Ireland’s biggest newspaper group spent €9.3 million on redundancies last year >

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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