Millionaire backing to help TV3 ramp up pressure on rivals
US billionaire John Malone has won the race to buy TV3, in a deal that will put millions of euro behind the independent broadcaster in its battle with RTÉ and UTV.
Mr Malone is buying the broadcaster through the cable company UPC, which he owns through his Liberty Global conglomerate.
In a statement last night, UPC said it would pay €80m to TV3's private equity owners Doughty Hanson. UPC may pay an extra €7m if certain performance targets are hit.
UPC Ireland chief executive Magnus Terjo said the deal "secures the long-term future of TV3", whose stars include Colette Fitzpatrick, Karen Koster and Anna Daly.
"With its wide range of home-grown programming, TV3 holds a unique place in the hearts of Irish viewers. This is a terrific addition to the TV service we offer - which is already the best in Ireland," he added.
Doughty Hanson, meanwhile, said it was "pleased" with the deal.
Mr Malone's purchase instantly puts pressure on UTV Ireland and, to a lesser extent, RTÉ.
Once the sale goes through, TV3 will become part of a global stable of successful businesses and is likely to get significant investment as a result.
Mr Malone is estimated to be worth more than $8bn (€7.2bn) personally, while Liberty Global is valued at more than $42bn. With those kind of pockets, analysts expect TV3 to ramp up its programme output in the months ahead.
That will inevitably put even more focus on UTV Ireland which has struggled since it launched its TV service at the start of this year.
The broadcaster expects to lose £11.5m (€16m) this year - double its original estimate.
The deal, which is subject to approval by competition authorities, will also likely put pressure on Eircom and other telecoms companies.
UPC already provides TV, phone and broadband services. With this deal, it will have access to TV and TV production. That puts it ahead of Eircom, which has broadband and phone.
Mr Malone has already been looking at buying mobile phone networks in Europe, which would add even more to his arsenal.
The billionaire is the biggest private landowner in the US with over 2 million acres. He has also spent millions on property in Ireland since the crash.
Among his properties here is the Westin Hotel in Dublin, which cost him €65m.
He also forked out around €15m for the former Four Seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge, as well as numerous others around the country. Two years ago, he paid €8m for the 16-bedroom Humewood Castle in Co Wicklow.