Sunday 18 November 2018

UTV blames weak ratings on Sky and UPC 's price hikes

Just 20,000 are watching flagship news show

ANCHORMAN: UTV's star signing, Pat Kenny
ANCHORMAN: UTV's star signing, Pat Kenny

Sarah McCabe

Price hikes and channel changes by UPC and Sky may have hurt the launch of UTV's new Irish television station, UTV Ireland.

Viewer numbers for UTV Ireland's new flagship news 6.30pm programme Ireland Live clocked in at just 20,500 on Thursday night according to figures seen by the Sunday Independent, giving it less than 2pc market share in that time slot. The show did better at 10.30pm when it got 55,000 viewers or just over 4pc of the market.

The station's management is thought to be concerned that viewers are blaming it for recent price hikes by two of the country's biggest television platforms, which were introduced days after it launched.

UPC and Sky, which both carry UTV Ireland, unveiled plans for significant price increases earlier this month, days after they began broadcasting new channel UTV Ireland.

One day after the launch, UPC told its 535,000 customers that a range of packages would be going up in price.

Many UPC customers will see the cost of their broadband, television and phone services jump by almost €100 over the next 12 months.

It is the third time the company has imposed price increases in less than two years and comes on the back of price increases of up to 14pc it announced at the end of January last year.

Sky and Eircom have also increased price hikes in recent weeks.

Also concerning the new station is the decision by UPC to air UTV Ireland in a slot previously held by the original UTV.

The two do not share all of their content, meaning viewers have lost access to some of the shows previously available on UTV.

These include an international news bulletin from ITN and BAFTA award-winning show Broadchurch.

The station is thought to be trying to gain the rights to Broadchurch, however, as well as The X Factor.

It will also seek the right to air live sporting events as they become available, with a preference for GAA.

Problematically for UTV, lots of long-term sports rights deals were signed in the year before its launch, meaning many will not be up for grabs for several years.

UTV Ireland already has the rights to air a host of ITV content poached from TV3, including popular soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

These have been effective at bringing viewers over to the station during their allotted time slots, it is understood, across all age profiles.

New farming series Rare Breed, broadcast on Friday nights, is also going down well with viewers.

Its competitors' current affairs and news shows, however, have resisted remarkably well to the new competition.

In the year to date (January 1-15) TV3's 5.30pm news show has averaged around 183,000 viewers or 19pc of the market.

UTV's challenger Ireland Live has averaged just 31,600 viewers or just over 2pc of the market, according to industry gauge TAM Ireland.

TV3's late night current affairs show, fronted by Vincent Browne, has maintained an average of 102,800 viewers or 12pc of the market.

UTV's Ireland Live at 10 averaged just 54,000 or 4pc of the market.

Sunday Indo Business

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