Sunday 23 July 2017

TV3 owner Virgin's £10m takeover of UTV Ireland is approved

Pat Kenny and Colette Fitzpatrick on the set of TV3’s current affairs show ‘Pat Kenny Tonight’. The station may start broadcasting in the North following Virgin Media’s takeover of UTV Ireland
Pat Kenny and Colette Fitzpatrick on the set of TV3’s current affairs show ‘Pat Kenny Tonight’. The station may start broadcasting in the North following Virgin Media’s takeover of UTV Ireland

TV3-owner Virgin Media has been given the green light to press ahead with the acquisition of UTV Ireland. The €10m deal, which will be funded through existing liquidity, includes a 10-year output agreement for ITV-produced programming in Ireland.

Tony Hanway, chief executive of Virgin Media Ireland, a wholly-owned subsidy of Liberty Global, said he was delighted with the deal.

"This follows our acquisition of TV3 last year and we look forward to playing an even bigger role in the Irish broadcasting sector," he said.

TV3 managing director Pat Kiely said: "The purchase of UTV Ireland is good news for viewers and will support TV3 to further compete against significant local and international competition."

Mr Hanway has hinted at cuts at the troubled Irish station, which ended up costing UTV Media £13m, four times the original estimate, due in part to poor audience figures. When asked in October about potential cutbacks the Virgin boss didn't comment, but admitted that it had been struggling. A deal was agreed for UTV Ireland in July, with Virgin proceeding with the process of getting approval from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, the competition authority and sign off from Communications Minister Denis Naughten.

Virgin's plans for UTV Ireland, which could include combining the station's workforce with TV3's, remains unclear. However, the possibility of TV3, which includes current affairs show 'Pat Kenny Tonight' in its output, broadcasting in the North may be considered.

TV3 has also submitted planning for a new studio at its Ballymount base in Dublin. It is understood it would free up the Virgin Media TV3 HD Studio so that it can be rented to other networks. The free-to-air station was bought by John Malone's Liberty Global subsidiary last year for up to €87m.

In September, Virgin Media was fined €255,000 for not giving 26,000 customers proper contracts.

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