Monday 22 July 2019

Malone's Liberty Global eyes move for UTV Ireland

John Malone of Liberty Global Picture: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
John Malone of Liberty Global Picture: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Tv3's parent company, Liberty Global, is weighing up a takeover move for UTV Ireland, according to multiple reports.

A deal would raise the prospect of the two Irish television stations being merged, and expand the reach of US cable and telecoms billionaire John Malone in this country.

A spokesperson for Virgin Media Ireland - a subsidiary of Liberty Global - told the Irish Independent that Liberty Global would "always consider strategic business opportunities in markets where it operates", but would not comment further. UTV Ireland declined to comment.

A takeover would put UTV Ireland into the hands of a third different owner in its broadcasting lifetime, which to date has covered just over 18 months.

The station was sold by its original owner, UTV Media (later to become Wireless Group), to UK broadcaster ITV in February, after a series of warnings that it was going to lose more money than expected, with audience numbers slow to build momentum.

When that deal was announced last October, ITV said that it would strengthen the station "with high-quality ITV programming at its core".

The news emerges days after Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation agreed terms to buy a number of prominent Irish radio stations - including Dublin's FM104 and Cork's 98FM - via a £220m takeover of UTV Ireland's ex-parent Wireless Group.

If approved by shareholders, the move would be likely to intensify competition for independent broadcasters, with News Corporation able to leverage its massive worldwide presence.

Wireless Group also owns UK sports radio station TalkSport, Q102 in Dublin, and LMFM, which operates in Louth and Meath.

Irish Independent

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