Wednesday 21 February 2018

Eircom's plan for pay TV on brink as RTE talks collapse

Laura Noonan

EIRCOM's pitch to be at the forefront of the next generation of paid-for television is hanging by a thread after the telco's One Vision consortium apparently reached the end of the line in its crucial negotiations with RTE's networks division.

The consortium has spent almost a year locked in negotiations with RTE in a bid to secure a transmission contract for the commercial aspect of a new television platform known as DTT.

The impasse promoted the Eircom-led consortium to lobby the Broadcasting Authority for an independent assessment of the RTE negotiations. The independent assessor, former Comreg chair, Isolde Goggin, reported back on Wednesday and indicated that the gulf between RTE and One Vision was too wide to merit further conversation.

One Vision and RTE are understood to have clashed on everything from the price of network carriage to the marketing support for DTT to the type of security One Vision would need to offer RTE for networks investment to be made. Sources at One Vision acknowledged an agreement with RTE's networks division was the only practical option for getting their DTT project on air, and confirmed they had received Ms Goggin's conclusions.

A One Vision spokesman said the group was "considering" the former Comreg chair's report. The consortium has been given until Wednesday to make any comments to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). A spokesman for the BAI declined to comment on the developments.

If One Vision's report to the BAI does not convince the regulator there are grounds to believe a deal can be reached with RTE, the regulator is likely to conclude that One Vision will be unable to take up the commercial DTT contract.

That will leave the regulator with no option but to offer the contract to Easy TV, a partnership between RTE and UPC owner Liberty Global which initially applied for the DTT tender. Such a move could raise eyebrows given that One Vision could argue that RTE was instrumental in their inability to do a deal on DTT. Easy TV's enduring appetite for DTT remains unclear.

Irish Independent

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