Monday 26 February 2018

Murdoch buys seven Irish radio stations​

News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch and his wife Jerry Hall Picture: Reuters
News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch and his wife Jerry Hall Picture: Reuters
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has swooped in to buy seven prominent Irish radio stations, including Dublin's FM104 and Cork's 98FM.

The stations are being bought by the media giant in a £220m (€263m) deal that will see it acquire a suite of radio stations including the hugely popular UK-based Talksport.

Mr Murdoch's involvement in the Irish radio scene is certain to result in intensified competition.

It could herald a more challenging landscape for independent stations as News Corporation leverages its global media presence to support its latest purchases.

News Corporation will secure ownership of Irish and UK radio stations after agreeing to buy Northern Ireland-based Wireless Group.

Wireless Group also owns Q102 in Dublin, Live95FM in Limerick, U105 in Belfast, and LMFM, which operates in the Louth and Meath areas.

Wireless Group was formed after broadcaster UTV agreed to sell its two TV channels, including its new UTV Ireland station, to ITV last year for £100m (€120m). UTV retained the radio stations and changed its name.

Robert Stokes, an analyst with Davy Stockbrokers in Dublin, said that amongst the radio stations being sold by Wireless Group, Talksport is the "jewel in the crown".

Talksport has about 3.2 million listeners, and has exclusive commentary rights to Premier League matches. About 84pc of its listeners are male.

Wireless Group radio stations in Ireland made a combined operating profit of £4.3m (€5.1m) last year.

News Corporation said that the Wireless Group audience complements the audience of 'The Sun'.

News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson said that the group will capitalise on Wireless Group's sports rights across the media giant's digital platforms in the UK, Ireland and beyond.

News Corporation owns a range of newspaper titles including 'The Wall Street Journal', 'The Times', and 'The New York Post'. However, it has been diversifying away from traditional print as revenues in that sector continue to come under pressure.

In 2013, News Corporation paid €18m for Storyful, the media firm that was established by former RTÉ journalist Mark Little.

The Irish radio stations being bought by News Corp generated revenue of £19m (€22.7m) last year, compared to £21.6m in 2014.

The radio market in Ireland came under intense pressure during the downturn. Wireless Group noted that the radio market in Ireland remained tough last year.

"Anticipating a return to strong advertising growth, radio station owners became more aggressive in terms of marketing and investment in talent, and discounted pricing remained prevalent," it said.

Irish Independent

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