Google in talks with RTE over content sharing
Broadcaster set to introduce online pay wall for foreign-based viewers of RTE programming
Google is understood to have held "high-level" talks with State broadcaster RTE with a view to sharing content in a landmark move that could reshape the Irish media sector.
Sources have indicated that the discussions centred around digitising RTE's vast television and radio archive. A Google spokeswoman said no "formal" discussions had taken place.
These major changes in RTE's digital strategy come as director general Noel Curran informed staff of the broadcaster's plans and finances over the last week. There were a number of detailed briefing sessions in recent days.
The move comes as RTE prepares to bring in "pay walls" for some online content. The State broadcaster is looking at charging some consumers for viewing shows on its online player service. This new "premium" player service is to be confined to the 1.5 million viewers from abroad, primarily watching from the US, Australia and the UK.
"RTE is looking at entering a space where you don't get everything for free. It is a significant shift," according to a source. It is believed that RTE is examining the BBC's model closely as it seeks to monetise content on the internet.
Internal RTE figures show that over 60 per cent of digital traffic is now on smart phones and mobiles. This has more than doubled in the last 18 months. Around two per cent of all The Late Late Show viewers now watch the show on the player rather than catching it live on Friday night. For other shows with a younger demographic, viewer patterns are hugely different. Close to 35 per cent of The Republic of Telly viewers now catch the show on the player.
Mr Curran is understood to have told staff that RTE may "break even" this year following a massive cost-cutting programme, which has seen 450 staff leave over the last two years, but RTE is likely to post losses of over €60m for 2012, fuelled by these exceptional one-off restructuring costs.
"The worst of the cuts are over. RTE have stabilised the losses and we're now in control of our finances," according to a source.
While one more work practice agreement is yet to be ironed out and a number of the station's top earners have not signed new contracts, the bulk of Mr Curran's €25m transformation programme has been completed.
RTE is now likely to "break even" or have a very small loss in 2013 – subject to the advertising market not suffering any catastrophic contraction. This marks a quite remarkable turnaround for the station that was gasping for air just two years ago.