Is UTV decision to enter Irish TV market really a plan to squash TV3?
UTV boss John McCann has branded plans by the company to launch a new television station here a boost to the industry and a vote of confidence in the Irish economy.
It is both and should be welcomed as very positive news.
But is it also a way to push TV3 out of the way altogether to make way for UTV Ireland – a new channel whose firepower would also give RTE a run for its money?
This is not just about the exclusive rights to Coronation Street and Emmerdale which TV3 currently has and UTV will get its hands on from 2015 on if its plans go to schedule.
UTV has made it clear today that the station is planning to have a presence in towns and cities around the country and will provide news and current affairs.
And this is also about exploiting a weak market in which there is little competition.
In many ways, UTV’s move today ends years of speculation.
It has been well flagged in the past that UTV might make a bid for TV3 – but that looks highly unlikely now.
Why would it? If it can pull this plan off it will take with it heavy hitting advertising drivers like Corrie and Emmerdale and potentially others.
TV3, which has refocused its attention on home grown programmes of late, has just reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation up 5.4pc to €5.8m for last year despite falling sales and UTV has much deeper pockets.
And TV3’s parent, private equity firm Doughty Hanson, which is heavily endebted to IBRC, is understood to be in talks to buy back its loans from the former bank’s receiver KPMG at a discount.
If UTV’s plans get the green light from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and that is the likely outcome, the company appears to be setting itself up to be as a serious player in the Irish TV market.
The losers, however, are TV3 and RTE - UTV with a market presence both North and South of the border would also have more firepower when bidding for programmes internationally.