TV channel UTV Ireland, which launched in January this year, is expected to make a full-year loss in the region of £6 million. In a report, UTV Media said that the performance of the Republic of Ireland service was impacted by delays to EPG positions, agency negotiations and slower than expected audience build.
The company also reported group revenue of £116 million for the year ended 31 December 2014, and group operating profits of £19.7 million, which includes UTV Ireland start-up costs of £3 million. Net debt stands at £46.2 million.
John McCann, group chief executive, UTV Media plc, said: “Record audiences for talkSPORT and market leading audiences in both Irish Radio and Television underpin these results, providing confidence that our new venture UTV Ireland, will emulate its older siblings and over time, build a stronger audience base.”
UTV Media considered universal coverage and EPG prominence as prerequisites to achieving its ambition that UTV Ireland will be the second most watched channel, after state broadcaster RTE 1, within two years of launching. In a statement, McCann commented: ‘I am pleased to report that audience share is starting to grow and, two months into the launch, UTV Ireland was the second most watched channel in peaktime.’
UTV Ireland successfully launched on 1 January 2015 well within budget, in spite of a number of challenges: it took longer than anticipated to receive the designation of the channel’s ‘public service’ character, meaning there was little time before launch to tell potential audiences about the channel’s EPG positions and retuning of DTT boxes. In turn, this delayed negotiations with advertising agencies, and audience levels and advertising revenues were lower than hoped.
The channel launched to some criticism, with the Irish Independent commenting “the network clearly remains a work in progress…UTV Ireland was a story of the bland leading the bland. Its rivals may sleep a little more soundly tonight.”
However, acccording to figures from Tam Ireland and Nielsen, UTV Ireland captured a 5.5 per cent share of viewing for January, making it the third most-watched channel in Ireland. McCann’s outlook is positive, as his statement concluded: “Many long hours have been spent by all those involved with getting UTV Ireland on air, whilst their colleagues in other parts of the group have continued to work hard to ensure that their businesses maintain their strong market positions and profit contributions. We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful team of professional and passionate people striving to grow UTV.”