Saturday 17 August 2019

Talks between RTÉ and Virgin Media stall over plus-one channel

 

Ireland's victory over the All Blacks in Chicago was one of RTÉ2's most-watched shows last year. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland's victory over the All Blacks in Chicago was one of RTÉ2's most-watched shows last year. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

A stand-off between Virgin Media and RTÉ has meant that plans for the national broadcaster to make a time-shifted version of RTÉ2 available on all television platforms have suffered a setback.

RTÉ was granted permission to launch a new time-shifted channel in January, with a plan to launch in mid-February.

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It also got the go-ahead to extend its RTÉ1 +1 channel into a 24-hour service. At the time, RTÉ said it would make the services "as widely available as possible, on all television services and platforms".

While the extended RTÉ1 +1 channel is available on Virgin, RTÉ2 +1 is not. Sources said that negotiations on the extra channel were proving difficult.

In a letter to the Government last year, Virgin claimed the RTÉ proposal for extra channels was a "misguided attempt to try to secure increased commercial revenue", while distracting RTÉ away from its core activities.

Virgin claimed that new services would "direct RTÉ resources away from their core purposes".

One of the reasons for this claim is that RTÉ is likely to have to pay carriage fees to platform operators in order to get extra material broadcast.

"Further, these schedule changes do not fulfil RTÉ's strategic aim of operating in a 'digital-first' manner, rather than expanding on traditional distribution methods," stated Virgin.

In RTÉ's own submission on the extended services, the broadcaster said that any additional revenue generated by them would be reinvested in its services, and would improve the range and quality of offering to the audience.

A spokesman for RTÉ told the Sunday Independent: "Following approval from the Minister of Communications, Climate Action & Environment earlier this year, and consistent with our obligation to serve Irish audiences, RTÉ will continue to work with all platforms to make the new RTÉ2 +1 television service available to all audiences."

A spokeswoman for Virgin Media said that negotiations were ongoing.

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